Led by the steady hand of Drew Brees, New Orleans was able to withstand a late push to defeat the Panthers 31-26 in the NFC wild-card game witnessed by 73,186 mostly Who Dats. Since 1970, there's been 20 instances of a team going 2-0 in the regular season and then meeting for a third time. While it's hard to beat a team three times (happens a little more than half the time), the Saints have the advantage in this matchup.
The Black and Gold won the game 31 - 26. "I said, 'Do you have a play you like?' And he said, 'Yeah.' So I said, 'Let's go for it.' End of discussion". When the dust had settled, Drew Brees made sure that this latest trip to the playoffs would last more than one week.
"If a team's going to do that, then obviously I feel like with the matchups we have outside, there should be opportunities", Brees said.
That's how chaotic the final moments of Sunday's Wild-Card game between the Saints and the Carolina Panthers proved to be at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. But they sprinted to a lead while their defense limited the fifth-seeded Panthers to field goals instead of touchdowns until the fourth quarter. If you go back and watch the film from past year, you will see Klein practically calling the offensive plays for his defense.
Zach Line finished the scoring for the Saints in the first half with a 1-yard touchdown run. He went 23-for-33 for 376 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception and a 115.2 quarterback rating. But the Panthers killed themselves with red-zone failures. We tried to get [receiver] Mike Thomas. Still, they did put themselves in a tough position to begin with. "I thought maybe somebody stuck his finger in my eye". Olsen got the payoff with a 14-yard slant, and Carolina had cut the deficit to 24-19 with 12:47 left.
Old friend Ted Ginn burned the secondary for an 80-yard touchdown.
Quarterback Cam Newton was pressured and flushed backward and to his right before throwing a ball that sailed high out of bounds (and past the line of scrimmage), and flags flew. Newton was checked for a concussion, but missed only one play before returning to the game.
"He actually got poked in the eye", Rivera said of Cam after the loss.
Brees consistently found his targets with Michael Thomas shining to haul in eight catches for 131 yards.
The Panthers nearly made enough plays despite falling behind 31-19 with 5:08 left.
Christian McCaffrey hauled in a 56-yard touchdown with 4:09 left and the drama was far from complete. Saints LG Andrus Peat was carted off the field in the first quarter with a lower left leg injury. Gano had made 29-of-30 kicks before that miss, and his only failed attempt had come from 55 yards out.
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