The New Orleans Saints defeated the Carolina Panthers 31-21 on Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to take sole possession of first place in the NFC South. The victory gave the Saints (9-3) a sweep of the season series with the Panthers (8-4) and extended their home winning streak to five games, fourth longest in team history.
The victory also guaranteed the Saints their first winning season since 2013.
The Saints will play at the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday in another kety division contest. The Falcons (7-5) lost to the Minnesota Vikings 14-9 to drop off the pace in the NFC South.
New Orleans raced to an early 21-7 lead and was able to pull away thanks to some complementary football as the offense, defense and special teams all contributed.
The Saints scored on a 2-yard Alvin Kamara run (his sixth consecutive game with a TD), a 3-yard Mark Ingram II run and a 10-yard pass from Drew Brees to Michael Thomas. Ingram set up his score with a 72-yard run, the second longest of his career and the second longest non-scoring run in Saints history. Kamara's scored came on fourth-and-goal from the 2.
In the second half the Saints added a 20-yard Kamara TD run and a 31-yard Wil Lutz while shutting down Cam Newton and the Panthers offense, despite missing two key members of the secondary (Marshon Lattimore and Marcus Williams). Special teams forced a Carolina fumble on a punt return that led to the Lutz fumble.
Brees moved into second place on the NFL's all-time completions list with a 32-yard strike to Thomas. Kamara continued to re-write the record books as he scored a touchdown for the sixth consecutive game, the first Saint to do that in a single season since Pierre Thomas in 2008 (Jimmy Graham did it over two seasons).
Kamara also became the third rookie in NFL history to have 600 yards rushing and receiving in the same season joining joining Billy Sims (1980) and Charley Taylor (1964). Kamara has 606 rushing yards on 86 carries (7.0 average) and 614 receiving yards on 59 catches (10.4). He has 11 touchdowns.
Ingram has run for 922 yards on 180 carries (5.1 average) and has caught 42 passes for 255 yards. He has nine touchdowns.
New Orleans Saints stat leaders
Drew Brees, 25 of 34 for 269 with one TD
Mark Ingram, 14 carries for 85 yards with one TD
Michael Thomas, five catches for 70 yards with one TD
Carolina Panthers stat leaders
Cam Newton, 17 of 27 for 183 yards with two TDs
Jonathan Stewart, 11 carries for 45 yards with one TD
Devin Funchess, four catches for 60 yards with one TD