Story by Brad Friedman
It was the kind of knock them down, drag them out kind of divisional matchup Saints and Panthers fans should come to expect, complete with six lead changes.
But it was Michael Thomas who delivered the final blow.
Late in the fourth, the rookie snagged a beauty of a pass from Drew Brees at its highest point, and stumbled into the end zone for a 42-yard score to secure a 24-23 New Orleans win. The catch capped off both his six reception, 127-yard performance and a wild back-and-forth affair.
The eventual game-winning drive came on the heels of 10 unanswered Carolina points to start the fourth quarter. Cam Newton's lone touchdown, a 15-yard strike to Kelvin Benjamin, and a 29-yard Graham Gano field goal lifted the Panthers to a 23-17 lead with 6:32 left to play.
Gano's lead-extending kick was his third made attempt of the day, but it was his lone error which proved costly. His 43-yard attempt just before the half hooked wide left, eventually downgrading Carolina's fourth-quarter lead to just one-possession after its 10-point surge and allowing Thomas's grab to stand as the game-winner.
Drew Brees: 29-39, 321 pass yds, 2 TDs
Mark Ingram: 87 rush yds, 1 TD
Brandin Cooks: 3 rec, 65 yds, 1 TD