Brees, Saints advance by shutting down Panthers late

Saints hold off Panthers late comeback

They will play at Minnesota against the second-seeded Vikings next weekend in a conference semifinal. It was the longest play for the Saints this season and the longest allowed by the Panthers.

Carolina failed to climb back into the game, regardless of a late game effort and eventual opportunity for a win against the Saints.

Drew Brees and the Saints are celebrating.

For the first time in the history of the New Orleans Saints, they play a team in the playoffs that they have already beaten twice in a season.

Following the heartbreaking loss to the Saints, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera revealed that Cam went down on objective so he could give backup QB Derek Anderson time to get warmed up.

"It was an eruption and you felt l like, 'All right, '" Brees said. "We knew coming in this would be completely different". New Orleans got to him four times in Sunday's tight NFC wild-card game. The game came down to the wire with the Panthers having a chance to take the lead on the final drive.

Brees is 13-of-18 for 230 yards and two touchdowns so far, overcoming a slow start (1-of-4).

One was Ted Ginn Jr. playing against his old team. Surely there isn't going to be a week's worth of "Bountygate" stories leading up to this matchup. He was cleared to play.

With less than two minutes remaining, Saints head coach Sean Payton made the curious decision to go for it on fourth-and-2 at Carolina's 47-yard line. Fullback Zach line and running back Alvin Kamara each ran for short touchdowns, the latter set up by Michael Thomas 46-yard reception.

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Cam Newton threw a fourth quarter strike to Greg Olsen, only for Alvin Kamara to respond again, and another to Christian McCaffrey - a lovely 56-yard touchdown that saw the rookie blaze a trail into the endzone.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is tended to by medical personnel.

"We've got the best fans in the world", he said. Brees was intercepted by safety Mike Adams, and Newton took over on the Carolina 31 with 1:51 left. They totaled 69 Sunday.

Again, better than his 105 passer rating in 349 yards really even dictate, given the circumstances. "You have ice in your veins", said Bell, who combined with Jordan with:06 to go to put a 31-26 Saints' victory on ice.

New Orleans looked as if they would have a cake walk in their third match up with Carolina.

Although Newton would throw another touchdown pass after coming back into the game - a toss to rookie Christian McCaffrey that went for 56 yards - the New Orleans defense ultimately slammed the door on any Panthers comeback.

The Panthers finally got in the end zone early in the fourth quarter, driving 68 yards on eight plays, with Newton doing the major damage with four passes for 54 yards to tight end Greg Olsen. Newton's pass to Clay advanced the ball to the 26, then a defensive holding moved it to the 21. Panthers coach Ron Rivera offered a similar explanation and added that Newton only sat down to give backup Derek Anderson more time to warm up.

"I feel like it was kind of taken away from us".

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