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New Orleans Saints pour it on from start to finish in regular-season finale against Carolina

Offense scored early, defense produced stops against Panthers

The New Orleans Saints celebrate their Week 17 win over the Carolina Panthers inside the Saints locker room presented by Mercedes-Benz.

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New Orleans Saints

Charlotte, N.C. – The New Orleans Saints did some scoreboard- and game-watching during and after their matchup with Carolina on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium. But make no mistake: They weren't at all distracted while performing the task at hand.

The Saints administered a 42-10 thrashing to the Panthers, to raise their record to 13-3 and ensure that whoever and whenever they play in the postseason, they'll be doing some coming off several of their best performances of the season.

The Saints started fast and never relinquished control against the Panthers, who finished the season on an eight-game losing streak. New Orleans was solid all around, as much as the final score suggested.

OFFENSE: When you're 3 of 3 in the red zone, 2 of 2 on goal-to-go situations and control the football for 35:40, those are winning numbers. New Orleans did all of that, and more. Penalty-wise, it was as clean as the team will operate and it didn't commit a turnover, finishing the regular season with an NFL-record low eight turnovers.

The Saints ran for 115 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries, Drew Brees completed 19 of 30 for 253 yards and three touchdowns, and the Saints controlled a defense that entered the game with a league-best 52 sacks. And the Saints were able to work starting guards Andrus Peat and Larry Warford back into the lineup as each returned from injury. A lot of good things happened in this one.

DEFENSE: Speaking of good things, how's this: The Saints allowed 299 passing yards (most of which occurred with the game well in hand) and held Carolina to 41 rushing yards on 18 carries. New Orleans really took advantage of Panthers rookie quarterback Will Grier: He completed 1 of 8 passes for 4 yards and an interception, which Saints linebacker A.J. Klein returned 14 yards for a touchdown.

The only disappointment for the defense, if there was a disappointment for the defense, was not keeping Carolina out of the end zone. Still, Janoris Jenkins produced an end zone interception to make sure that Carolina was held to one touchdown. Also, you have to like the fact that the secondary held up again, minus starters Eli Apple, Marcus Williams and Vonn Bell. P.J. Williams and C.J. Gardner-Johnson have been a strong duo at safety, and Jenkins played pretty well as the starting corner.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Punter Thomas Morstead and the cover teams had a solid day. Morstead had a couple of punts he wasn't especially pleased with, but he finished with a 47.2-yard gross average and a 46.5 net on six punts, and he'll take that end result. Nothing special happened in the return game – the Panthers did a great job playing keep-away from Deonte Harris – but the Saints also made sure they weren't hurt by any returns. And kicker Wil Lutz wasn't needed for any heroics; six point-afters is something the Saints would live with every week.

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