New Orleans Saints rout Carolina Panthers 31-13

jperson@charlotteobserver.comDecember 8, 2013 

— Advantage, New Orleans.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees bounced back from a rough outing last week to carve up the Carolina Panthers’ secondary Sunday, passing for 313 yards and four touchdowns in the Saints’ 31-13 win in front of a raucous crowd of 73,000-plus at the Superdome.

The loss snapped a franchise-record, eight-game win streak for the Panthers (9-4), who dropped a game behind New Orleans (10-3) in the race for first place in the NFC South. The teams meet again in Charlotte on Dec. 22.

The Panthers’ last loss had been a 22-6 defeat at Arizona on Oct. 6. Carolina fell a game short of matching Kansas City’s nine-game streak for the longest this season.

Brees struggled in a 34-7 loss last week at Seattle, which held Brees below 200 yards for the first time in 44 games.

But the Panthers allowed Brees to get in a rhythm, failing to get any pressure on him during a second quarter when Brees threw three touchdowns and take control of the game.

Brees completed 30 of 42 passes and became the fifth quarterback to surpass 50,000 career passing yards, joining Brett Favre, Dan Marino, John Elway and Peyton Manning.

The 31 points were the most allowed by the Panthers’ second-ranked defense since a 44-38 win at New Orleans in Week 17 last season. But that game came against a Saints’ defense that gave up more yards than any team in NFL history.

First-year defensive coordinator Rob Ryan came after the Panthers from all angles Sunday. The Saints sacked quarterback Cam Newton five times, and did not allow the Panthers to get any momentum going with long gains.

Carolina had no plays of 20 yards or more, compared to six for the Saints.

New Orleans improved to 7-0 at home, and is 8-1 in ‘Sunday Night Football’ games.

The Panthers started blitzing more in the second half, and were getting hits on Brees and disrupting his rhythm.

But it was too little, too late.

Garrett Hartley’s 19-yard field goal put the Saints up 24-6 in the third quarter, and the only remaining drama was whether the Superdome crowd would break the Guinness record for crowd noise at an indoor sporting event.

A Guinness representative was in attendance as the Saints tried to break the record for “loudest crowd roar at an indoor sports arena.”

The Saints led 21-6 at halftime on the strength of Brees’ three second-quarter touchdown passes.

After the Saints spotted the Panthers a 6-0 lead, Brees began picking apart Carolina’s so-called No-Name Secondary. With the Panthers’ front four getting little or no pressure on Brees, he continued to find holes in the Panthers’ zone coverage.

Brees completed 17 of 21 passes for 183 yards in the first half, with no interceptions. Brees was sacked once in the first half -- by Mario Addison on a play that didn’t lose a yard.

The Saints hit Carolina with several big, quick-strike plays, after the Panthers tried to dictate the pace with their running game in the first quarter.

New Orleans had five plays of at least 20 yards in the first half; the Panthers had none.

The Panthers chewed a lot of the clock on their first two possessions, but settled for Graham Gano field goals on each of them to take a 6-0 lead.

Carolina’s first drive covered 53 yards in 15 plays and consumed more than six minutes. The Panthers converted 3-of-4 third downs on the drive, but Newton was sacked on third-and-four and Gano came on for a 45-yard field goal.

Ted Ginn Jr. set up Gano’s second field goal with a 32-yard punt return after the Saints went 3-and-out on their first series. Gano’s big return -- coupled with punter Thomas Morstead’s facemask penalty -- gave Carolina possession at the Saints’ 32.

The Panthers drove inside the 10 before Gano came on for a 24-yard field goal.

Brees threw touchdown passes on all three of the Saints’ second-quarter possessions.

Brees hooked up with Marques Colston for touchdowns of 6 and 15 yards, before finding tight end Jimmy Graham on a 5-yard crossing route with 18 seconds left in the first half.

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