Saints salt it away
Another week, another chance for the Panthers offense to win it, or tie it, at the end.
The Carolina defense forced a somewhat miraculous turnover as the Saints fumbled the ball through the end zone looking to pad their lead.
That gave the Panthers a last chance with 1:44 left and no timeouts, trailing 12-9.
Ultimately, it ended the way it's been ending lately. Cam Newton's pass to tight end Ian Thomas fell incomplete on 4th-and-5. The losing streak extends to six -- tied for the longest skid during head coach Ron Rivera's tenure.
Carolina opened the scoring in the first quarter with a brilliant trick play on 4th-and-2 at midfield. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner dialed up a pass for running back Christian McCaffrey, who took the handoff and faked like he was running off right tackle before tossing the ball to wide open tight end Chris Manhertz for a 50-yard touchdown.
With that throw, McCaffrey became the first non-QB in franchise history to toss a touchdown pass, and that touchdown was the first of Manhertz's career.
A high, then a low right before half
The Saints were looking to take the lead before halftime as they had the ball in Carolina territory coming out of the two-minute warning. But linebacker Thomas Davis deflected Brees' pass for tight end Dan Arnold and cornerback James Bradberry was on the spot for the interception.
Bradberry's 29-yard return allowed Carolina's offense to set up shop at the New Orleans 42, and now suddenly it was the Panthers in prime position to add some points before half.
It didn't work out that way. Cam Newton's pass to wide receiver Devin Funchess in the end zone was underthrown and Saints cornerback Eli Apple took advantage, picking off the pass to end the half.
Before the game, everyone would agree the Panthers would be thrilled to own the lead at halftime. But that turnover left everyone in the stadium with a sick feeling. A classic case of "missed opportunities" that could come back to haunt the home team, who led 7-6 after two quarters of play.
Rookie wide receiver DJ Moore hadn't lost a fumble since the Week 6 loss at Washington when he lost two. He picked a bad time to lose another.
In the third quarter, with Carolina still leading 7-6, Moore carried the ball on an end-around and broke into the secondary. But the big play ended in disaster as safety Vonn Bell punched the ball out from behind and linebacker A.J. Klein made the recovery at the New Orleans 16-yard line.
Carolina's chance to extend their lead was squandered, and the Saints promptly turned that turnover into points. Running back Alvin Kamara was untouched off the right side for a 16-yard touchdown to five New Orleans its first lead.
But the Saints went for two and that proved to be a costly mistake of their own.
Rookie cornerback Donte Jackson picked off the pass for wide receiver Michael Thomas and returned it nearly 100 yards for the a pick-2, leaving the Panthers with a 12-9 deficit.