After a slow start, the New Orleans Saints roared to life thanks to an 80-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to Ted Ginn Jr. which helped them take a 21-9 halftime lead Sunday in their wild-card playoff game vs. division rival Carolina.
The Saints had two three-and-outs to begin the game, the first time that's happened this season, but Brees then connected with the former Panther on the team's longest scoring play of the season.
Brees added a 9-yard scoring pass to tight end Josh Hill in the second quarter and fullback Zach Line scored on a 1-yard dive with 43 seconds left in the half.
Brees' 151.4 passer rating is the highest by any player in the first half of a playoff game (minimum 10 attempts) since Kurt Warner in the 2008 NFC Championship (156.0 passer rating against Eagles). Brees was 13 of 18 for 230 yards with two touchdowns.
The Panthers scored on three Graham Gano field goals, one from 27 yards, one from 39 yards and the final one from 58 yard as time expired. Gano missed a 25-yard attempt in the first quarter.
The Saints lost starting left guard Andrus Peat to injury early in the second quarter. He had to be carted off with his left leg immobilized.
The winner of this game will play at the Minnesota Vikings next Sunday in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs.
New Orleans Saints key stats
Drew Brees, 13 of 18 for 230 yards with two TDs
Mark Ingram II, three carries for 14 yards
Ted Ginn Jr., two catches for 85 yards with one TD
Carolina Panthers key stats
Cam Newton, 12 of 20 for 143 yards
Jonathan Stewart, nine carries for 20 yards
Greg Olsen, four catches for 50 yards
Saints fans show their spirit during pregame celebrations at Champions Square prior to our Wild Card playoff game.