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Halftime update - New Orleans Saints 16, Carolina Panthers 7

Saints trying to secure a top playoff seed

With their playoff seeding hanging in the balance and their top three running backs sitting at home because of Covid-19, the New Orleans Saints grabbed a 16-7 halftime lead over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, Jan. 3 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

With a victory Sunday plus a loss by Green Bay and a win by Seattle, the Saints (11-4) would grab the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs and the only available bye week. The worse the Saints can finish is the third seed. A win would secure the second seed.

The Saints scored on an 18-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Drew Brees to tight end Jared Cook and an eight-yard scoring strike from Brees to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Kicker Wil Lutz missed the point-after attempt following Sanders' touchdown score. Lutz added a 33-yard field goal at the end of the second quarter.

New Orleans is playing without star running back Alvin Kamara and backups Latavius Murray, Dwayne Washington and fullback Michael Burton. Kamara tested positive Thursday for Covid-19 and his teammates and running backs coach Joel Thomas were ruled closed contacts and forced to sit out.

The Panthers (5-10), led by former Saints backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, scored on a 1-yard run by running back Rodney Smith.

Ty Montgomery and Tony Jones Jr. took most of the snaps at running back for the Saints with Montgomery having a nice 36-yard scamper. Brees was 13 of 16 for 114 yards and the two touchdown passes.

Safety Malcolm Jenkins had an interception, defensive end Trey Hendrickson Jr. recorded a sack as he returned from injury and the Saints defense made a nice stop on fourth-and-1 late in the second quarter.

The Saints will get the ball to start the second half.

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