Carolina Panthers

Don’t you blame the Panthers’ defense for Monday’s loss to the Saints. Not this time.

The Carolina Panthers’ defense deserves a lot of the blame for the team’s six-game losing streak. Monday night’s loss to New Orleans isn’t included.

Blame the 31 yards the Panthers gained in the first half after a 50-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Or the interception Cam Newton threw with 18 seconds left in the half, instead of throwing the ball away. Or D.J. Moore’s third-quarter fumble at New Orleans’ 16, which the Saints recovered and eventually turned into the go-ahead touchdown.

But Carolina’s defense held Saints quarterback Drew Brees to one of the worst games of his career. It intercepted him once — twice if you count Donte Jackson’s interception on the Saint’s two-point conversion attempt. It held the Saints, the NFL’s sixth-most efficient third-down offense, to four third-down conversions in 12 tries.

It was also on the field for more than 35 minutes as the Panthers’ offense couldn’t stay on it.

Yet, even when victory seemed certain for the Saints, Carolina’s defense forced a fumble through the end zone — battling to make plays until the last possible yard. Its offense turned the ball over on downs, though, sealing the Panthers’ sixth straight loss.

Any playoff hopes look bleak, as every other team in the NFC wild-card hunt won this week and the Panthers will need a lot of help to salvage the season.

Three who mattered

James Bradberry: Panthers defensive back recorded his first interception of the season and kept Michael Thomas relatively in check. He also forced a fumble through the end zone for a touchback.

Alvin Kamara: The second-year Saints running back scored the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter and averaged nearly 5 yards per carry.

Chris Manhertz: Panthers backup tight end nearly doubled his career receiving yard total with his 50-yard touchdown grab in the first quarter. It was also his first career touchdown.

Observations

Marshall Newhouse got the start at left tackle over Chris Clark, who missed practice with a knee injury Thursday before practicing in full Friday and Saturday. Clark did not have an injury designation on the team’s final injury report of the week, and was dressed.

Jackson’s full-field interception on the Saints’ two-point conversion attempt was the first time in Panthers history a player has returned a conversion attempt for a score.

Carolina led at the end of the first quarter for just the second time during since its five-game losing streak began in Week 10.

The Saints scored six points in the first half, bringing their total to nine first-half points in their past three games.

Worth mentioning

With a 9-yard carry in the first quarter, McCaffrey broke the Panthers’ single-season record for yards from scrimmage.

Newton failed to throw a touchdown pass in consecutive games for just the third time in his eight-year career.

Brees has attempted 30 or more passes in 209 career games, but tonight was just the 14th time he’s done so with fewer than 300 passing yards, no touchdowns and at least one interception.

They said it

“I just made a play on the ball. It’s more fun to talk about when you win. We didn’t get the dub, so it’s not really a joy to talk about.” — Donte Jackson on his two-point conversion return.

“The guy probably outweighed me by 200 pounds, but I was just trying to get in his way and sell out for my teammates.” — Captain Munnerlyn on lead blocking on Bradberry’s interception.

“I’ve tried and done everything. The frustration comes from no matter what you do, you could rub magic dust on it ... and you come out and it’s still the same. The past couple weeks, nothing really has changed.” — Cam Newton on his sore, surgically repaired shoulder.

Marcel Louis-Jacques, 704-358-5015: @Marcel_LJ
Marcel Louis-Jacques covers the Carolina Panthers for the Charlotte Observer, keeping you on top of Panthers news both on the field and behind the scenes. He is a 2014 graduate of Arizona State University and grew up in Sacramento, California.
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