Turning Point of the Game

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New Orleans Saints Turning Point in win over Panthers, presented by Uber

Carolina Panthers' D.J. Moore (12) fumbles the ball after being hit by New Orleans Saints' Vonn Bell (24) in the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Dec. 17, 2018. New Orleans recovered the ball. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
Carolina Panthers' D.J. Moore (12) fumbles the ball after being hit by New Orleans Saints' Vonn Bell (24) in the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Dec. 17, 2018. New Orleans recovered the ball. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

There’s something to be said for refusing to give up on a play.

Actually, for the New Orleans Saints, what can be said is that it can turn around a game and provide the kind of spark that’s necessary to win it, as was the case for safety Vonn Bell and linebacker A.J. Klein in Monday night’s 12-9 victory over Carolina at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.

The case can be made that in a game in which New Orleans raised its record to 12-2, the Panthers hit the Saints with two big offensive plays. The first, a pass by running back Christian McCaffrey on fourth-and-2 from midfield with 4:12 left in the first quarter, resulted in a 50-yard touchdown reception by wide-open tight end Chris Manhertz, to give Carolina a 7-0 lead.

The second was as well designed – an inside handoff to receiver DJ Moore, on first down from midfield, with the Panthers leading 7-6 and 3:35 remaining in the third quarter.

Bell, coming on a blitz, literally touched Moore before he took the handoff going right, and then Bell turned his attention to McCaffrey, who was the decoy for a running play to the left. Klein, too, had his sights on McCaffrey and took steps in that direction, before he and Bell realized Moore was streaking down the middle of the field.

Moore ran through a tackle attempt by defensive end Alex Okafor and continued his weave before safety Marcus Williams engaged, while being blocked, about 20 yards downfield. That interference was enough to give Bell time to close the gap.

The third-year safety ran up behind Moore and executed a picture-perfect punch out – he wound up and uppercut the football in Moore’s right arm – and it flew out. The first man on the scene? Klein, who also initially was out of the play but like Bell, circled back and made a beeline for the runner.

Klein recovered the fumble at the 16, essentially taking points off the board for the Panthers, and the Saints’ offense took the gift and drove 84 yards in 11 plays to score the game-winning touchdown with 12:12 left in the fourth quarter.

Oh, a footnote: Possibly, the turnover never happens if Bell wraps up Moore in the backfield for a 3- for 4-yard loss, instead of turning his attention to McCaffrey.

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