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Saints Improve to 8-0 By Downing Panthers

    <span style="">New Orleans – Eight and Ohhh!  

John Carney gave the Saints their first lead of the game on a 40-yard field goal with 4:36 left in the fourth quarter that gave the Saints a 23-20 lead over the visiting Carolina Panthers. DT Anthony Hargrove then iced the contest by stripping RB DeAngelo Williams of the football, and somehow rolled out a pile of players and returned the ball two yards that gave the Saints a 30-20 lead with just two minutes left. The Saints erased a 17-3 first half deficit to win 30-20 and improve to 8-0 for the first time in team history and ended the Panthers seven-game winning streak at the Superdome.

"It was good to get that win to get to 8-0," said Head Coach Sean Payton. "I am encouraged with how we have been able to win a few of these games without playing our best football. I am proud of how our players hung in there and battled back and got back in the game."

"They were really pounding the ball all game long but we didn't break," said DE Will Smith. "Our guys were fired up and we knew that we could get back into the game. We didn't want to trail early, but we just kept battling."

"The more that you win games like this, the more that you believe you can comeback to win games," said QB Drew Brees. "The other team's know it too and that might have that feeling of, "Uh oh, here they come.'"

"The drive at the end of the first half that we got the field goal was big," Brees said. "It may have been only three points, but when you are in a close game, every point means something and it did today."

"8-0 doesn't mean anything," Smith said. "We are fired up and have two games on the road and it's never easy to win on the road in the NFL. We have to take care of our bodies and be ready to play the Rams."

With the win the Saints improved to 8-0, while the Panthers moved to 3-5, while in the division the Falcons moved to 5-3 with a win over the Redskins and the Tampa Bay Bucs cracked the win column and are now 1-7.

The Saints battled valiantly throughout the game against the aggressive and determined Panthers, but ended up needing every ounce of the 414 yards of total offense they could muster against the Panthers rushing attack that grinded out 182 yards on the ground. The Saints, behind Drew Brees's' 330 yards passing and a running game that managed 84 yards, relied on their defense to hold the Panthers to only three points in the second half, and none in the fourth quarter. The Saints were paced by Hargrove's two fumble recoveries and 12 tackle games by SS Roman Harper and MLB Jonathan Vilma.

The Panthers accepted the opening kickoff and began their initial drive of the game at their own 25 yard-line. The opening play of the game was a nine-yard inside run by rookie running back Tyrell Sutton. On the next play running back DeAngelo Williams found a hole off the right side of the Panthers offensive line and dashed 66 yards for the opening score of the game. K John Kasay hit the extra point and the Panthers lead 7-0 after one minutes of play.

The Saints' opening drive of the game began at the Saints' 20 after a touchback. The Saints took to the air and despite three completions from Drew Brees to three different players, the Saints couldn't convert their initial third down conversion after DT Damione Lewis tracked down RB Pierre Thomas after a three yard gain when the team needed five yards for the first down. P Thomas Morstead hit a 46-yard punt that was fair caught at the Carolina 26 yard-line.

QB Jake Delhomme completed his first pass attempt of the day on a 10-yard crossing route to WR Steve Smith. Williams then tried the left side for a gain of seven yards. Backup running back Jonathan Stewart then came in and took a pitch out and turned it into a four-yard gain and another first down. Williams was finally bottled up and dropped for no-gain by DT Anthony Hargrove on a first down run and once again on second down when S Roman Harper and DE Charles Grant stopped him for a loss of a yard. Hargrove was flagged for an encroachment infraction on a third-and-11 which gave the Panthers five yards. Delhomme's third down pass was completed to running back Mike Goodson in the flat, but a nice open field tackle by Harper forced the Panthers to punt, which Reggie Bush fair caught at the Saints' 11.

The Saints' second drive ended after one play. DE Tyler Brayton beat a block off the right side of the Saints' line and sacked and stripped Brees of the football, which was recovered by LB Jon Beason at the Saints' 11.

Williams then picked up four yards on a first down carry, and finished off the drive via a seven-yard touchdown run with 6:53 left in the first quarter that put the Panthers ahead 14-0.

The Saints began their third drive of the game at their own 21 yard-line and started the drive with a four-yard gain by RB Pierre Thomas. Brees then found Thomas for a one-yard completion, followed by a third down conversion when Brees hit WR Robert Meachem over the middle for an eight-yard gain. Bush then sprinted nine-yards through a hole. Brees then hit TE Jeremy Shockey for a 14-yard gain in traffic, which was followed up by a nine-yard screen pass to Thomas out of the backfield. Thomas then picked up five yards rushing, followed by a four-yard gain by RB Mike Bell to the Carolina 23. The Panthers called their first timeout of the first half and the Saints then picked up three yards on a Thomas carry. Brees, on a third-and-three, found Devery Henderson streaking across the field and fit a pass right into his numbers and Henderson turned it into a 15-yard gain to the Carolina five on the final play of the first quarter. LB Thomas Davis stopped Thomas for a five-yard loss after the blitzing linebacker shot into the backfield. Brees then found Meachem for a gain of five yards back to the original line of scrimmage. A third down snap to Brees was mishandled and he picked up the loose ball and threw it away, which set up a John Carney 23-yard field goal, which ended the 15-play, 74-yard drive that took more than eight minutes off of the clock and gave the Saints their first points of the afternoon, 14-3 with 13:41 left in the second quarter.

The Saints' received their first big play of the game when after stuffing the Panthers on two running plays that resulted in stops by Vilma and Smith, bottled up Stewart and watched as Harper forced a fumble at the Panthers' 16 that was recovered by reserve safety Pierson Prioleau.

Brees found Thomas on a dump-off for one yard, but on a second down-and-nine, attempted to find WR Marques Colston near the goal-line, but CB Chris Gamble instead intercepted Brees along the sideline and turned and raced 41 yards up the Saints' sideline to the Panthers' 45 before he was knocked out of bounds.

The Panthers were guilty of an illegal procedure call on first down, which pushed them back five yards, and then Williams lost a yard on the ensuing first down. Delhomme then hit Smith for a gain of four yards and FS Darren Sharper was hit with a personal foul penalty for a hit out of bounds that gave the Panthers an additional 15 yards. Williams then picked up three yards and six yards on carries and one a third-and-one for the 33, Stewart tried the left side of the line for a gain of three yards and a first down. Delhomme found Stewart on a screen for a 14-yard gain to the Saints' 16 with just under eight minutes to go in the second quarter. Vilma then tracked down Williams for a four-yard loss on first down. DE Will Smith then sacked Delhomme for a seven-yard loss to the 27 after he bull-rushed through a block by Pro Bowl left tackle Jordan Gross. The Panthers called their second timeout of the half with a 6:14 left and the football resting on the Saints' 27. Williams took a draw and was able to pick up 13 yards before being met by Vilma and Sharper on a jarring tackle at the Saints' 14. The Panthers called upon Kasay, who nailed a 32-yard field goal that gave the Panthers a 17-3 lead with 5:30 left in the first half of the game.

The Saints were unable to convert a third down when Brees' pass intended for Bush along the sideline was broken up by S Dante Wesley and the Saints were forced to punt. Carolina received excellent field position after Morstead's punt bounced back towards the Saints' goal-line and the visiting team took over at their own 43. The Saints forced an incompletion on first down and stopped Stewart for a loss of two yards on second down. William took a draw and raced 15 yards for a first down to the Saints' 44. Delhomme muffed the snap while dropping back to throw and was tackled for a three-yard loss to the 47 and the Saints called their second timeout of the half. The Panthers were hit with a false start penalty on TE Jeff King to pushed the ball back into Panthers territory to the 48. After a two-yard gain by Williams on second down, the clock ticked down to the two-minute warning. On third-and-16 from midfield Sharper bolted around the left side of the line and stopped Williams for no gain. The Saints called their last timeout with 1:53 to stop the clock and P Jason Baker came on for his first punt of the game. The Saints were flagged for a neutral zone infraction which gave the Panthers five yards. Baker hit a 32-yard punt that Bush returned four yards to the Saints' 17.

Without the benefit of any timeouts the Saints attempted to drive the length of the field in an effort to get back into the game. The Saints went to a passing attack and were able to drive 76 yards in 11 plays in 1:39. The biggest plays on the drive came via a 15-yard completion to Henderson and a 37-yard pass from Brees to Colston that was aided by a roughing the pass penalty on the Panthers. The Saints couldn't get into the end zone from the Panthers' seven yard line, though and were forced to take three points off of John Carney's foot, which narrowed the score to 17-6 in the Panthers' favor.

Brees came out with a completion to Shockey for seven yards to start the second half after the Saints started at their own 20. On a third-and-three Brees dropped back and found Henderson on a slant that the speedster from LSU turned into a 63-yard gain to the Carolina 10. Thomas then took a handoff, made a quick cut and found the end zone that trimmed the Panthers' advantage to 17-13 after just 1:46 elapsed off the clock to start the third quarter.

The Panthers started their first drive of the second half at their own 21 and received a five-yard gain by Sutton on first down. A second pass from Delhomme to Smith sailed over the receivers head and a third down from the 25 saw Delhomme loft a pass to backup TE Gary Barnidge for 16 yards. Williams then picked up 10 yards to the Saints' 48 for anther first down. DT Remi Ayodele stopped Stewart for no gain on first down, then Delhomme connected with WR Dwayne Jarrett for nine yards and converted a third down with a three-yard completion to Jarrett. Delhomme's first down pass attempt for TE Jeff King was incomplete after Sharper closed in on the play quickly. A second down run by Williams was stopped by Harper after a gain of six yards. Williams, on third down, got around the right side of the Saints' defensive line for a gain of nine yards and a first down. Delhomme then had a pass tipped but fall into the hands of Smith for a gain of four yards. A second down carry by Stewart picked up four yards and on a third-and-two from the Saints' 15 Stewart ran off the left side of the line before being spun down for a two-yard gain. Stewart then managed another two-yard gain to the 11 on first down but picked up 10 yards after slipping a tackle to the one.

The Panthers called their first timeout with 4:51 left in the third quarter and the ball on the Saints' one. The Panthers bobbled an exchange and Will Smith dropped Delhomme for a six-yard loss. A second down carry by Sutton was stopped for no gain and on a third-and-goal from the seven Delhomme's quick pass intended for Williams caromed off the running back's hands and fell incomplete. The Panthers settled for Kasay's 25-yard field goal after the 19-play, 73-yard drive that ate 9:43 off of the clock and gave the Panthers a 20-13 lead with 3:27 left in the third quarter.

Brees found Bush out of the backfield for a gain of five yards, and then Thomas picked up four yards on a run. On third down Bell picked up five yards and a first down. The Saints were docked 10 yards when Shockey was called for an offensive pass interference call. Bush then made a one-handed grab for a gain of eight yards on a pass then picked up seven yards on a handoff to the Saints' 46. On a third-and-five Brees checked off as the game clock nearly hit :00 at the end of the third quarter. Instead, the quarterback dropped back, stepped up in the pocket and fired a laser down the numbers to Meachem, who made a juggling reception and turned and raced 54-yards to the end zone for a touchdown. After Carney's extra point the score was tied at 20-20.

Thomas Morstead's kickoff sailed deep into the end zone for a touchback and Carolina took possession at their own 20. The Panthers were guilty of a snap infraction and lost five yards and a first down pass attempt fell incomplete. Williams was stopped for no gain on second down. Delhomme was able to convert the third and long with a 22-yard pass to WR Kenneth Moore. Delhomme then hit Barnidge for a gain of 11 yards to the Carolina 49. CB Randall Gay then deflected a pass into the flat for an incompletion. A second down pass to Williams picked up seven yards across the middle of the field and on third down Stewart was dropped for a loss of two yards by Harper and Vilma.

Baker's punt bounced at the seven and was downed by the Panthers at the Saints' two yard-line. The Saints took possession with 11:19 left in the game and from their own two and ran a belly play by Thomas for a gain of two yards. Brees then dropped deep and found Thomas coming out of the backfield for a gain 15 yards. Thomas broke several tackles and made two big moves to pick up additional yardage on the play before being tackled out-of-bounds in front of the same official who had flagged Sharper for a hit out of bounds, but no penalty was called on the Panthers defender that dropped Thomas. On the play LB Thomas Davis was injured and needed assistance in walking off of the field. Thomas then picked up six yards on a cutback run to the 27. Brees then connected with Bush for a first down gain of 10 yards to the Saints' 37. Thomas then bulled his way off the left side of the Saints' line for a gain of 12 yards to the 49 of the Saints and another first down. Thomas once again took the same route and picked up six yards over the left side and into Panthers' territory to the 45. Brees then connected with Bush in the flat for a gain of five yards, another first down and the ball down to the 40. Mike Bell entered the game and picked up three yards behind G Carl Nicks. Brees audibled and zipped another pass to Meachem down the seam for a gain of 21 yards to the Carolina 16. Meachem appeared to cramp up after being tackled by Gamble and needed a little extra time in getting off of the field. It was Meachem's fifth catch of the game, which set a career-high and put him on the cusp of his first 100-yard receiving game (98 yards). The official timeout was taken with 6:15 left in the game and the ball on the Panthers' 16. Thomas took a handoff and escaped being stopped in the backfield and somehow managed to pick up four yards to the 12.

Brees dropped back and fired a pass to Colston in the end zone. The big receiver out of Hofstra went up to make the grab but was ruled incomplete by the officials. The Saints' Sean Payton challenged the ruling on the field, but the call on the field stood, saying that Colston didn't maintain possession of the ball as he went out of bounds. G Jahri Evans was flagged for a holding call and the ball was pushed back to the Panthers' 22. A third down pass into the end zone for Colston was broken up by LB Jon Beason. Carney came on to hammer a 40-yard field goal and the Saints had their first lead of the game, 23-20, with 4:36 left in the game.

The Panthers picked up 11 yards on a completion to Sutton to the 31, then Williams went around the left end for five yards. Delhomme found Barnidge for a gain of 9 yards and first down. Stewart then picked up two yards, which were followed by two incompletions. On fourth down Delhomme dropped back and waited in the pocket an extra split second and was sacked and stripped of the ball by Will Smith at the Saints' 47. Hargrove recovered the loose football and the Saints took possession with the lead.

Carolina stopped Thomas for a loss of one-yard and the Panthers called their second timeout with 2:38 left in the game. RB Mike Bell then bulled his way through the line for a gain of three yards to midfield and the Panthers called their final timeout with 2:33 left in the game. Brees' third down pass intended for Shockey was incomplete over the middle and Morstead hung a 48-yard punt into the air that bounced softly and was downed at the Panthers' two yard-line by CB Malcolm Jenkins.

Williams was stopped by Hargrove for a loss of one, stripped Williams of the ball and picked the ball up and went the two yards into the end zone that gave the Saints a 30-20 lead after Carney's extra point.

The Panthers, trailing by 10 after once leading 17-3, relied on the pass and after two incompletions watched as Delhomme hit Smith for a 46-yard gain and into Saints' territory. Jarrett then caught a pass over the middle for 11 yards and added a gain of seven on the next play. Delhomme then hit Williams out of the backfield for a gain of five yards to the Saints' 8. The Panthers tried to run it in with a six-yard gain to Saints' two. Delhomme then spiked the ball with :25 left in the game. A third down pass intended for Smith was broken up by Sharper. On fourth-and-goal from the two, Vilma and LB Scott Shanle teamed up to force an incompletion and the Saints only needed to kneel down and take a knee to improve to 8-0 for the first time in time history.

Inactive Players for the New Orleans Saints: K Garrett Hartley, QB Chad Daniel (third quarterback), WR Lance Moore, CB Leigh Torrence, RB Lynell Hamilton, LB Scott Fujita, C Nick Leckey and DT Sedrick Ellis.

Inactive Players for the Carolina Panthers: QB A.J. Feeley (third quarterback), S Charles Godfrey, FB Tony Fiammetta, FB Brad Hoover, WR Mushin Muhammad, G Duke Robinson, TE Dante Rosario and DT Nick Hayden.

Key Stats: QB Drew Brees completed 24-of-35 passes for 330 yards with one touchdown and one interception for a passer rating of 96.1 … RB Pierre Thomas had 13 carries for 50 yards and a score … RB Mike Bell added five carries for 17 yards and Reggie Bush had 16 yards on two carries …. Bush led the team in receiving with seven receptions for 37 yards, while WR Robert Meachem led in receiving yardage with 98 yards on a career-high five receptions … Thomas had five receptions for 31 yards … Henderson had three grabs for 93 yards … Shockey also chipped in with three receptions for 26 yards and WR Marques Colston had one for 45 yards… the Saints allowed one sack for zero yards.

Defensively Vilma and Harper had a team-high 12 stops, while FS Darren Sharper had nine tackles and two passes defensed … DE Will Smith had four tackles and two sacks and a forced fumble… DT Anthony Hargrove had three tackles and two fumble recoveries, including one he stripped in the fourth quarter.

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