<span> </span> <span> <span style="">Charlotte-</span> The Carolina Panthers, a week after suffering a lopsided defeat in Tampa rebounded in impressive fashion and handed the Saints a 30-7 defeat on a cool, crisp fall afternoon at Bank of America Stadium.
"There are not a lot of positives to talk about right now," said Head Coach Sean Payton. "When you turn the ball over and give up big plays the only thing you can do is lick your wounds and work on getting those things fixed."
Payton was quick to credit the Panthers, "They are a first place team that beat us in all three phases today."
With the loss the Saints' record dipped back below .500 (3-4) and the team faces another tough task with a long trip and a week of preparation against the San Diego Chargers.
Carolina Panthers QB Jake Delhomme was impressive and efficient throughout the game, completing 14-of-22 passes for 195 yards and two TD passes for a passer rating of 122.3. But Delhomme wasn't the lone story of the day, as the Panthers' two headed rushing attack of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart ran hard all afternoon and picked up 134 yards between them. The Panthers' defense seemingly took away most of the Saints' big play abilities, with the exception of a 54 yard completion from Drew Brees to Devery Henderson, the fifth time this season the two have connected for completions over 50 yards.
The Saints had 343 yards of total offense compared to the Panthers' 336, but the Panthers controlled the clock an even six minutes longer than the Saints did, nor did they commit any turnovers, while the Saints suffered an interception and a fumble, which both were converted into points by the Panthers. New Orleans was paced offensively by Shockey, who had a team-high 50 yards on five receptions, WR Devery Henderson (3-80) and TE Billy Miller (4-56). Defensively the Saints were led by MLB Jonathan Vilma (7 tackles) and FS Kevin Kaesviharn (7 stops), while DE Bobby McCray and WLB Scott Shanle added six tackle each.
It certainly didn't help matters that with the Saints trailing 13-7 at halftime when RB Reggie Bush was ruled out of the second half of the game with a knee injury.
Carolina won the coin toss and started at their 28 yard-line after a 26-yard kickoff return by Mark Jones. The Panthers then mixed their power running game with quick hitting short and intermediate passing routes to move into Saints' territory. Carolina converted an early third-and-long with a 13-yard pass from Jake Delhomme to Dwayne Jarrett. From the Saints' 20 on a third-and-five, tight coverage by the Saints' secondary resulted in Delhomme being sacked for a two-yard loss by NT Kendrick Clancy. Carolina ended the 10-play, 50-yard drive that covered 5:49 in time of possession with a 39-yard John Kasay field goal that gave the Panthers a 3-0 lead.
From the 20 Drew Brees welcomed TE Jeremy Shockey back to action with a nine-yard completion on first down and then backed it up with an 11-yard completion to TE Billy Miller and a four-yard pass to WR Lance Moore. Deuce McAllister then picked up five yards. The Saints converted their first third down when Reggie Bush swept to the right side of the line on a third-and-one and picked up three hard yards to the Carolina 48. Brees' next two passes were incompletions, which brought up a third-and-10 but Brees and Moore couldn't connect and the Saints Steve Weatherford hit a 31-yard punt that was fair caught at the Carolina 17.
Carolina RB DeAngelo Williams found a hole in the Saints' defense and rumbled for a 13-yard gain on first down. Delhomme tried to hook up with WR Steve Smith on a post pattern on the next play but the two couldn't connect. Two plays later a blitzing Roman Harper batted down a Delhomme pass at the line of scrimmage and forced a Carolina punt.
New Orleans started their second drive at their 22 yard-line with 4:18 left in the first quarter. Bush took off on a sweep to the right for a 29-yard gain, the longest rush of his young three-year career. Julius Peppers sacked Brees for a three-yard loss. On the next play Bush swept to the right but was flung out of bounds by S Richard Marshall that drew a 15-yeard personal foul flag. Brees then hit Shockey for a gain of 13 to the Carolina 21. Brees then hit Bush for his first reception of the day, a gain of five yards. Bush then took a pitch and picked up six yards to the Carolina 10. McAllister then bolted through a hole over the left side behind Carl Nicks and Mike Karney and picked up nine yards to the Carolina one on the last play of the first quarter.
Karney started the second quarter by scoring his first touchdown of the season with a powerful one-yard run of the left side of the line that gave the Saints a 7-3 lead after Taylor Melhaff added the extra point.
The Saints' defense then knocked Carolina out with a three-and-out, with big plays turned by Roman Harper on first down with a hard hit on Williams for a one-yard loss and then a third down pass defensed by Randall Gay that caused an incompletion on a pass intended for Muhsin Muhammad.
The Saints' third drive of the game began at their own 31. Bush started out with a nifty eight yard gain on an inside handoff and then followed it by bouncing a seven-yard run, giving him 55 yards on his first six carries of the game. Brees was very nearly intercepted on the next play when he tried to connect with Marques Colston on a deep incut by CB Ken Lucas. Carolina did create a turnover on the next play when Peppers stripped Jeremy Shockey of the ball that was recovered by S Chris Harris at the Saints' 40 yard-line.
Delhomme hit RB Jonathan Stewart for a three-yard gain and DE Bobby McCray stopped Stewart for no gain on second down. On a third-and-seven Delhomme hit Steve Smith on a slant that picked up 19 yards to the Saints' 18 and on the next play Stewart found a hole and darted in for a touchdown.
Bush lost a yard on first down and then picked up three yards on a draw on second down. Brees coolly stepped up in the pocket and hit Miller across the middle for a 13-yard gain and a first down. C Jonathan Goodwin was injured on first down on an incomplete pass, while on second down Brees hit Devery Henderson for a nine-yard gain. Bush was stopped for no gain on third down on a sweep to the right as a host of Carolina defenders pursued the ball. Carolina picked up 24 yards on the punt return to the Carolina 39. Goodwin did not return to action and was replaced in the lineup by reserve Matt Lehr.
Stewart picked up two yards and then took a handoff from Delhomme, nearly stumbled and pitched it back to Delhomme who hit Smith for a 29-yard gain. The Saints' defense then held the Panthers to no yardage on the next two plays, which brought up a third-and-ten from the Saints' 30. K John Kasay trotted out onto the field to attempt a 48-yard field goal and converted it, which gave the Panthers a 13-7 lead with 3:28 left in the second quarter.
The Saints then employed their two-minute offense and picked up a key early third down on a six-yard completion from Brees to McAllister on a third-and-three as the clock hit the two-minute warning. A first down pass to Shockey failed to connect and then a quick screen to Moore only netted two yards. Brees tried to connect with Henderson deep down the middle of the field on third-and-eight, but two couldn't connect in the face of the heavy blitz the Panthers brought.
The Saints punted and were the recipients of an illegal block in the back penalty that forced them to started at their own 12. A three yard gain by Stewart and a second down run by Williams ran the majority of time off the clock, but the Saints called their second timeout with :06 left and the Panthers ran another play before the Saints called their last timeout and forced the Panthers to punt and Bush tried his best to make a slew of defenders miss on a seven yards return that witnessed him traversing the field.
The two teams were very close in terms of total yards in the first half, with the Saints out-gaining the Panthers 144 yards to 140 yards. The Saints had a productive half rushing the ball, with 78 yards on 14 carries (5.6 average).
New Orleans came out and accepted the opening kickoff of the second half and the Panthers stopped them on a three-and-out and forced the Saints to punt. Carolina took over their 22 and picked up a 17-yard gain by DeAngelo Williams and an additional 15 yards on a personal foul penalty on Kevin Kaesviharn for a hit out of bounds. Two plays later Delhomme connected with Steve Smith for a 39-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith. The Panthers' lead extended to 20-7 following Kasay's extra point.
New Orleans, trailing by 13 and minus one of their top playmakers in Bush, picked up 12 yards before the two teams traded penalties. McKenzie then picked up six more yards on a rush and Brees and Karney connected on a gain of two yards but a third-and-seven pass was incomplete after the Panthers unleashed a heavy pass rush on Brees. The Saints Weatherford again punted and Carolina began at their own 32.
Jonathan Vilma tackled Williams for a loss of one yard and then Delhomme scrambled for an eight-yard gain before being tripped up by Charles Grant. Vilma then made a diving play on third down to knock a pass away from Williams on a crossing route.
The Saints started at their own 23 yard-line with 7:42 remaining in the third quarter. McAllister plied the middle of the line for a three-yard gain. Brees then was picked off by CB Ken Lucas on a pass intended for Colston and Lucas returned the call 31 yards to the Saints' 18. The Saints challenged that Lucas was down by contact at the 49 yard-line. After a video review the play stood and the Saints were charged with their first timeout of the second half.
Stewart picked up five yards to the 13 on first down and an additional four yards on second down. Stewart converted a third-and-one with a three-yard run by Stewart. Gay defended a fade route attempt to Muhammad with a well-timed leap and swipe of the ball. Stewart then churned out two more yards on second down and the Delhomme fired a pass into the flat on a third-and-goal that Williams got to the pylon for the score that gave Carolina a 27-7 lead.
Brees came out and ripped a 25-yard strike to Shockey but the Saints couldn't pick up another first down after two incompletions, a nine-yard run by Aaron Stecker and a short fourth-down run by McAllister. The Saints challenged the spot of the ball on the fourth down run and the officials reviewed the tape and concluded that the spot of the call on the field was the correct one. The Saints were charged with their second timeout of the half and the Panthers took over at their own 36.
Carolina started with a four-yard run by Stewart and then connected on a 12-yard completion from Delhomme to Smith for the first down. Two Carolina runs that netted five yards brought up a third-and-five from the Saints' 44 on the last play of the third quarter. Delhomme and Smith failed to convert on third down on a deep pass and the Panthers were forced to punt for the fifth time on the afternoon.
Brees connected on a third-and-long with Robert Meachem for a 12-yard completion and one the next play Brees found Devery Henderson for a 54-yard completion to the Carolina 11. Brees wasn't able to connect with Shockey after the tight end got mixed up with two defenders and McAllister then picked up four yards on a handoff. Brees rolled out on third down and hit Moore for a four-yard completion, which brought up a fourth-and-two from the three. Stecker bulled his way through the middle for a gain of one and the Saints were halted on their second fourth and short of the second half with the mark coming at the two.
Carolina added a 28-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter to increase their advantage to 30-7 and left the Saints with little time to try to cut into the lead.
Injury Update: Saints RB Reggie Bush did not return to the field to start the second half and sat out the second portion of the game. Head Coach Sean Payton said after the game that it was unlikely Bush would accompany the team to London and would most likely be visiting Dr. James Andrews to have his knee further evaluated.
Roster Move: The Saints re-signed WR Terrance Copper and placed DT Montavious Stanley on the reserve/injured list.
What's On Tap: The Saints will depart this evening directly from Charlotte for London. The team will travel throughout the night on the trans-Atlantic flight and land in the United Kingdom at roughly 7:30 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time. The traveling party will then be processed through Customs and Immigration and then head to their team headquarters north of the city. Next week's opponent, the San Diego Chargers, are following a similar schedule and will be departing Buffalo this evening and also will spend the week in the United Kingdom.
Practice Site: The Saints will be practicing this week at the practice facility of legendary soccer club Arsenal F.C. The Saints will conduct have a walk-through on the day before the game at Wembley Stadium.
Nesbit Set To Return: Guard Jamar Nesbit will be eligible to return to action next week following his four game NFL imposed suspension. Nesbit, who was replaced in the starting lineup by rookie Carl Nicks, will join the team in London.