The New Orleans Saints (0-2) were defeated by the Carolina Panthers (1-1), 35-27, in their first NFC South contest of the 2012 season at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The win gives Carolina an 18-17 edge in the all-time series with the Saints and ends a four-game winning streak in the matchup by New Orleans.
The Saints traveled to Carolina for their first game on the road after losing 40-32 to the Washington Redskins in the team's season-opener.
New Orleans will return home and face the Kansas City Chiefs in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome next Sunday, September 23rd, at Noon CT.
QB Drew Brees completed 31-of-49 (63%) for 325 yards and added one touchdown and two interceptions. Brees also jumped over the line to score on a one-yard touchdown rush.
Brees completed 13 of his passes to RB Darren Sproles who recorded 128 yards receiving while also adding 82 total return yards.
TE Jimmy Graham caught seven passes for 71 yards (10.1 avg.) and added one touchdown reception.
The Saints had success rushing, totaling 163 yards on the ground. RB Pierre Thomas rushed nine times for 110 (12.2 avg.) while also adding four receptions for 33 yards. RB Mark Ingram added 53 yards on the ground with 16 carries.
S Malcolm Jenkins led the defense with ten tackles (eight solo). LB Curtis Lofton also recorded ten tackles (five solo) in his second career regular season game with New Orleans. DE Cam Jordan recorded four tackles including one sack for a loss of nine yards.
The Saints won the coin toss and elected to receive.
Brees led the offense onto the field and connected on five passes to Sproles for 54 yards, including a short pass that Sproles took 25 yards, to help move the Saints down the field.
Ingram carried four times for 23 yards on the ground which set up a one-yard touchdown pass from Brees to Graham.
K Garrett Hartley connected on the extra point to give the Saints a quick 7-0 lead with 9:39 remaining in the first quarter.
Second-year quarterback Cam Newton entered the game for the Panthers' opening drive from the Carolina 20-yard line. On his first throw, Newton connected with WR Brandon LaFell on a 27-yard strike down the left side of the field.
After RB DeAngelo Williams carried twice for a first down, Newton dropped back and was sacked by Jordan for a loss of nine-yards. RB Jonathan Stewart carried on second-and-19 but was brought down by Lofton for a 2-yard loss. Faced with third-and-21, Newton scrambled out of the pocket but only picked up nine yards on the ground, forcing a Carolina punt that put the Saints on their own seven-yard line.
Thomas rushed for a short gain on first down. Brees rolled out after play action deep in Saints territory and was intercepted on a pass intended by TE David Thomas by Godfrey who returned the ball nine yards for a Carolina touchdown. K Justin Medlock made the PAT and tied the game, 7-7.
Starting from the 20-yard line, Brees completed a 17-yard pass to WR Lance Moore on the left sideline on first down. With a new set of downs, Thomas busted through the line, breaking tackles on his way to a 23-yard pickup to move the ball to the Carolina 38-yard line. Brees continued to move the offense down the field, connection on two throws to Graham for a total of 25 yards. The Saints were unable to get the ball into the Carolina endzone and Hartley put a 22-yard field goal through the uprights to give the Saints a 10-7 lead.
On the first play of the Panthers' next possession, Newton faked a handoff to the running back and took off to the right side, racing down the sideline for a gain of 40 yards. Two Carolina carries ended the first quarter with the Saints ahead, 10-7.
Newton started the second quarter with a seven-yard rush and a short completion to WR Steve Smith. Williams carried two times for 14 yards and Stewart added another eight yards on the ground. On third-and-two, Newton scrambled out of the pocket but was stopped short of a first down.
On fourth-and-one, the Panthers ran an option play with RB Mike Tolbert in the backfield. The pitch from Newton was too low for Tolbert and LB Jonathan Casillas recovered the fumble at the New Orleans eight-yard line.
Brees and the offense were able to drive down to Carolina territory once again. He completed a 13-yard pass to Graham and an 11-yard pass to Sproles before connecting on a five-yard pass to WR Joe Morgan, Morgan's first regular season reception. From mid-field, Pierre Thomas gained nine-yards on a screen pass from Brees.
However, the Saints were unable to pick-up another first down as a third down attempt was deflected at the line. Hartley came on and made a 53-yard field goal, the longest of his career, to give the Saints a 13-7 lead.
Newton connected with LaFell again on first down who picked up 12 yards before running out of bounds. Newton later connected on a deep pass to Smith who picked up 35-yards on the catch.
Newton then completed an 11-yard pass to LaFell before connecting on a screen pass to Stewart who took the ball 17 yards into the endzone. Medlock made the extra point to give the Panthers their first lead of the game, 14-13 with 3:33 remaining in the first half.
On first down, Brees was barely able to escape pressure from the defense and flipped the ball to Thomas who picked up four yards.
Brees was incomplete on second and third downs as the Panthers brought heavy pressure, and P Thomas Morstead came on for his first punt of the day.
On first down, Newton faked a pass to the outside and LaFell came from the left side of the field on a reverse. LaFell gained 25 yards on the carry that brought the game to the two-minute warning. Newton was incomplete on his next two throws before making a 19 yard completion to LaFell on the left sideline.
Stewart carried for seven yards to put the ball at the New Orleans seven-yard line. After a short completion to LaFell, the Panthers were faced with third-and-two from the six-yard line. Newton kept the snap and rushed to pick up a first down. On first down, Tolbert rushed in for a two-yard touchdown. Medlock made the PAT and increased the Carolina lead to 21-13 with 11 seconds remaining.
A squib kick by Carolina and a Brees kneel-down ended the first half. Carolina held the halftime lead, 21-13.
Carolina received the ball to start the second half.
Newton completed his first two passes of the half including a 13-yard pass to TE Greg Olsen. Stewart was stopped for a one-yard gain by Lofton on first down and Newton was incomplete on his next two attempts that led to a Carolina punt. Sproles returned the punt 16 yards to the New Orleans 27-yard line.
Brees completed a 7-yard pass to Sproles on second down after a short rush by Ingram. Brees was then incomplete on third down and Morstead punted the ball 65 yards to the endzone for a touchback.
Newton lined up in the shotgun formation and connected on a 20-yard completion to LaFell before the Panthers went to the ground. Stewart broke off a 16-yard rush to the right side. On the next play, Williams took off and picked up 27 yards on a rush to the left side before being brought down at the New Orleans 17-yard line. On the next play, CB Patrick Robinson was called for pass interference while covering Smith and the Panthers took over at the New Orleans four-yard line. On first-and-goal, Williams carried the ball the rest of the way for a Panthers touchdown. Medlock made the PAT and gave the Panthers a 28-13 lead.
Sproles returned the kickoff 38 yards and the Saints took over from the New Orleans 33-yard line.
Brees completed his pass to Thomas who picked up 12 yards on the reception before rushing to the left side for an 11-yard pickup on the ground. WR Courtney Roby made his first reception of the season for nine yards and moved the Saints to the Carolina 35-yard line. The Saints were unable to pickup another first down and Brees was called with intentional grounding on third down. Morstead came on to punt and Roby downed the ball at the Carolina 3-yard line.
Carolina was able to move away from their own endzone as Stewart rushed for 14 total yards on three carries and Tolbert made a 20-yard reception. Newton was brought down for a loss of one by Casillas and was incomplete to bring on the Carolina punting unit. Sproles returned the punt 14 yards to the New Orleans 32-yard line.
After a short Ingram rush, Brees completed a 10-yard pass to WR Marques Colston to move the chains. A short run and an incomplete pass ended the third quarter.
Brees was faced with third-and-six to start the fourth quarter and was able to find Colston behind the defense for a gain of 29 yards. Pierre Thomas caught a screen pass and broke a couple of tackles to move the ball to pick up eight yards. Thomas then got the carry and pushed through the defense for 11 yards to move the ball to the Carolina one-yard line. Ingram took the ball the rest of the way for a one-yard score and Hartley made the extra point to cut the Carolina lead to 28-20.
The Panthers struck back quickly as Newton completed a pass to Smith who went 66 yards down to the New Orleans 14-yard line. After a short rush by Stewart, Newton was barely able to escape defensive pressure but complete a pass to WR Kealoha Pilares who gained six yards on the reception. From the five-yard line, Newton ran a quarterback draw and was able to get into the endzone for a touchdown. Medlock made the PAT and gave the Panthers a 35-20 lead.
Brees came out on the next drive and completed a 13-yard pass to Moore. Thomas then rushed up the middle and bounced outside to pick up 48 yards on the ground. Two short plays brought up third down where Brees targeted Graham down the right sideline but the pass was tipped away. On fourth down, Brees lost the ball, recovered, and threw incomplete to turn the ball over on downs.
The Panthers kept to the ground on their next possession. Williams picked up eight yards on two carries and Tolbert rushed for one-yard on third down but was stopped short of the first down by Lofton and DE Will Smith. After the punt, New Orleans took over from their 19-yard line.
Brees was sacked for a loss of two yards on first down. On second down, Brees completed a seven-yard pass to Sproles before hitting Graham for six yards and a first down.
After an incomplete pass, Brees connected with Graham again for 17 yards down the middle of the field. Sproles then caught a screen pass and took off for a gain of 24 yards. Brees completed his next two throws, both to Sproles, and moved the ball down to the Carolina 11-yard line.
On second down, Brees connected with Colston who was stopped just short of the goal line after picking up ten yards and moving the chains. On the next play, Brees leapt over the line and got into the endzone for a touchdown. Hartley made the extra point and brought the Panthers lead to 35-27.
Hartley attempted an onside kick but the ball was recovered by Olsen. The Panthers kept to the rushing attack on their next possession. Williams ran for three-yards on two carried before Newton picked up three more yards on the ground. Carolina ran the clock down and called a timeout before their punter came onto the field.
The Saints took over after a touchback with 48 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Brees completed his first pass for 14-yards to Graham. On his next attempt, Brees was picked off by LB Jon Beason at the New Orleans 41-yard line. The Panthers took a knee to end the game with a 35-27 victory.