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New Orleans Saints break three-game losing streak, pull into three-way tie for first in NFC South

Defense allowed 99 net passing yards and two field goals against Carolina

Bottom line is this: The New Orleans Saints ended a three-game losing streak Sunday with a 28-6 victory over Carolina at the Caesars Superdome, and climbed back into a first-place tie with Tampa Bay and Atlanta in the NFC South Division.

And despite the fact that New Orleans (6-7) lost its first matchup against each of those division rivals, there remains another head-to-head game with each which gives the Saints a large say in what their future holds.

It wasn't the complete-game, eye-pleasing, get-right performance that New Orleans was looking for, but it was the victory the Saints had to have.

OFFENSE: Twenty-eight points (21 on offense) and three of four on trips to the red zone certainly sounds like an efficient offensive performance, but that was nowhere near the case on a day in which the Saints totaled 207 yards, including 119 yards and two touchdowns on 18 completions by quarterback Derek Carr . The Saints were neither explosive (one play for more than 20 yards) nor forceful (97 yards on 25 carries). And on seven of 10 third-down chances New Orleans failed to convert, which contributed to a time of possession of just 25:10. Give credit for this: Tight end Jimmy Graham being active on gameday the last two Sundays has proven beneficial, with him catching three passes for two touchdowns the last two weeks, both of them in the red zone. But there was no fluidity on offense and the absence of receivers Rashid Shaheed and Michael Thomas glared against the Panthers.

DEFENSE: Two field goals allowed in an NFL game is a good day, and 99 net passing yards allowed in an NFL game is a really good day even if it's against a rookie quarterback whose team has struggled. The Saints posted four sacks (1.5 by linebacker Demario Davis, one each by safety Jordan Howden and defensive end Carl Granderson and a half-sack by defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd) and had eight quarterback hits. Two plays jumped out – cornerback Paulson Adebo ran down Panthers running back Miles Sanders on a 48-yard run in the third quarter, pushed him out of bounds at the 1 and the Saints held the Panthers to a field goal, and Granderson's 6-yard sack in the fourth quarter pushed back Carolina far enough for kicker Eddy Pineiro's 41-yard field-goal attempt to hit the left upright for an unsuccessful try. But…New Orleans allowed 204 rushing yards, on 39 carries, to a team that couldn't throw the ball. It's imperative that New Orleans figures out how to stop the leaks in the running game.

SPECIAL TEAMS: The punt block team submitted the most electric play of the day. When linebacker Nephi Sewell forced a fumble by Carolina punter Johnny Hekker – Sewell basically smothered the ball while it was on Hekker's foot – and linebacker D'Marco Jackson recovered and returned it eight yards for a touchdown with 4:37 left in the second quarter, it was a spark that New Orleans desperately needed. It was New Orleans' second special team touchdown this season (Shaheed had a 76-yard punt return against Green Bay) and the Saints, who have come close to blocking a punt this season, completed the task.

Check out the game action shots from the New Orleans Saints game against the Carolina Panthers in Week 14 of the 2023 NFL season.

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