What We Learned: Panthers at Saints

1. NEWTON CARRIED CAROLINA: The Panthers weren't at their collective best Sunday at New Orleans, but when you have Cam Newton, sometimes you have enough.

Newton, who seems to strengthen his case for Most Valuable Player consideration each week, was spectacular once again as he outdueled Drew Brees.

Newton completed 28-of-41 passes for 331 yards and five touchdowns to tie a career high. He also rushed 10 times for 49 yards, 30 of which came on a pivotal third-and-1 bootleg.

With Carolina trailing 38-34 in the closing minutes, Newton engineered an 11-play, 75-yard drive to complete the comeback with a touchdown strike to wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery.

"It's not about me. It's never been about me," Newton said when asked about his status among the elite quarterbacks. "Everybody wants to make this about me 'dabbing' or MVP or sulking or having fun. The truth of the matter is we had a great team win today."

Well, that team is grateful for its quarterback.

"Have to give kudos to Cam," defensive end Charles Johnson said. "He came out and saved us today."

2. CAM WENT THROUGH CONCUSSION PROTOCOL: Newton took a big hit early in the third quarter that landed him in the in-game version of the NFL's concussion protocol for the first time in his career, but he didn't miss any action.

On first-and-goal at the 4 on the opening drive of the second half, Newton rolled right, then took off for the corner of the end zone, only to be caught off guard and rocked by a hit delivered by linebacker Michael Mauti just short of the pylon.

"I deserved to get hit like that, taking my foot off the gas. The guy just came out of nowhere it felt like. But that won't happen again," said Newton, who admitted to slowing up because he thought he had a clear path to the end zone. "It's a physical sport – I mean it's not ballet. Football is a collision sport.

"But I'm fine, and I do not have a concussion. The referee did a tremendous job. Numerous times he kept asking me if I was all right. He kept looking at me in the eye to make sure I was focused."

After the drive, which resulted in a touchdown three plays later, doctors decided to check out Newton, so he went into the locker room to take care of business.

"I had to use the bathroom, and I asked the team doctors can we do the protocol in the back," Newton said. "They asked me numerous questions like the days of the week, and how many turnovers we had in the game – and I told him I was fine."

3. PRODUCTIVE GINN STILL BATTLING DROPS: Wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr., who had two touchdown catches against the Saints, could have had two more.

Late in the third quarter, with Carolina leading 27-24, Ginn sprinted free down the left sideline and dropped what could have been a 72-yard touchdown.

But after New Orleans took a 31-27 lead early in the fourth quarter, the Panthers dialed up another deep shot for Ginn, who got past the secondary for a 45-yard touchdown. Their confidence in Ginn was rewarded.

"I'm just happy that Cam came back to me," said Ginn, who caught a 13-yard touchdown pass early in the third quarter and has a career-high six total for the season.

On the eventual game-winning drive, Ginn fought through a hold by safety Jairus Byrd and couldn't hang on to what could have been a 57-yard touchdown.

His ups and downs were typical of Carolina's day as a team, and Ginn knows as well as anyone how untimely some of his drops have been this season.

"I have no excuse. I dropped them. Period," Ginn said. "You have to come back and make a play."

4. LEARNING EXPERIENCE FOR DEFENSE: Carolina, which entered the game third in the NFL in scoring defense, allowed a season-high 38 points against the Saints.

"We have to tighten up on defense because that wasn't good enough," linebacker Luke Kuechly said.

The Saints are accustomed to putting up points in the Superdome, but Carolina intended to present much more resistance and create more consistent disruption. Fortunately for the Panthers, it didn't cost them.

"We have to do better," Norman said. "We didn't play our best game, but hey, we got out of here with a win."

5. FINNEGAN FITS IN: After playing his first game in the 2015 season, cornerback Cortland Finnegan got to put on a division championship hat. Not a bad way to return to the NFL for the newcomer, who chipped in with four tackles and one quarterback hit.

"It's crazy. The guy fit in just like an electrical socket," Norman said of his fellow defensive back. "He went to work. We are just loving up on that guy."


Senior writer Bryan Strickland contributed to this report.

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Week 13: Saints vs. Panthers

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