What It Means
Many assumed the Panthers' offense would start clicking against the league's 32nd-ranked defense. That's why it's best to avoid assuming things in the NFL.
Playing without tight end Greg Olsen and center Ryan Kalil, and with a quarterback whose sore right shoulder kept him from throwing much at practice, the offense had to play the final three quarters without receiver Kelvin Benjamin. But the Saints were also reeling from injuries, and they managed to shut down everyone not named Christian McCaffrey.
Meanwhile, the Panthers' top-ranked defense struggled against its first above-average opponent of the season, allowing the Saints to pile up 34 points with relative ease.
Now 2-1, Carolina next faces a trip to New England. The Patriots weren't their usual dominant selves Sunday against the Texans, which may or may not be a good thing for the Panthers.
—Benjamin was helped off the field after his left leg bent beneath him while making a catch on the final play of the first quarter. He tried to jog it off once he got back to the sideline, but Benjamin spent most of the second quarter with ice on his knee, which is the same he injured ahead of the 2015 season. He did not come back out for the second half.
—Guard Trai Turner was slow to get up after a play midway through second quarter. Turner returned after he was replaced by Amini Silatolu for one play.
—Linebacker Thomas Davis went into the locker room early in the third quarter with a rib injury. Davis being Davis, he returned later in the quarter.
—The Panthers came in leading the league with five drives of 6-plus minutes. Their first drive took 8:41 off the clock, but it ended with a field goal. Carolina's two long drives last week – their first and last – also ended with field goals, but the Bills' offense isn't like the Saints'.
—Carolina racked up 109 rushing yards in the first half, but Newton was 6-of-10 for 21 yards and an interception. Those 21 yards were just three more than Newton's career-worst total in the first half (18 at Oakland last season). He finished with a 43.8 passer rating, the third-worst of his career.
—Newton's three-yard scoring run late in the third quarter was the Panthers' first touchdown since early in the third quarter of the season-opening win at San Francisco. The touchdown-less streak totaled 129:58 worth of game time.
—In the Panthers' first game without Olsen, Ed Dickson didn't have a reception until the second-last play of the game.
—The Saints rushed for 149 yards, their most against the Panthers since they ran for 163 on Sept. 16, 2012.
—Defensive end Mario Addison had a sack in his sixth straight home game.
—Kicker Graham Gano made both of his field goals to improve to 8-for-8 this season. His second, a 48-yarder, was his first this season beyond 39 yards.
—The Panthers fell to 0-3 on opening coin tosses.