The Carolina Panthers squeaked out a 23-20 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night to improve to 4-6. How’d they do it? With a little good, bad and ugly.
▪ Carolina’s defense all but shut down the NFL’s No. 1 offense. The Panthers held New Orleans to just a field goal in the first half and only allowed one passing play of more than 20 yards in the game. The defense limited the Saints to 371 total yards (211 of which came in the second half), after allowing 523 in the teams’ meeting earlier this year. Kurt Coleman intercepted Drew Brees, Mario Addison matched his single-game career high with two sacks and Carolina blocked a field goal that linebacker Luke Kuechly returned for 88 yards.
▪ After having just 12 sacks entering the Week 8 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals, the Panthers have 18 in three games and now are tied for first in the NFL in sacks with 30.
▪ For the second time in less than a week, the Panthers squandered a 17-point lead. On Sunday, the Panthers couldn’t stave off Alex Smith and the Chiefs, and Thursday they barely held off Brees and the Saints. Quarterback Cam Newton and his offensive unit managed just six first downs and 83 yards of offense in the second half.
▪ The Panthers had 50 net rushing yards and have not reached 100 yards rushing in their past three games.
▪ The injuries piled up. Carolina is evaluating corner Leonard Johnson (chest contusion), starting center Ryan Kalil (shoulder sprain) and defensive end Mario Addison (ankle). Perhaps most heart-wrenching for fans on Thursday night was watching Kuechly being carted off the field in tears after a rough collision.
▪ Kuechly has entered the NFL’s concussion protocol, head coach Ron Rivera confirmed on Friday. He joins left tackle Michael Oher, linebacker A.J. Klein and safety Colin Jones there.