November 18, 2016 / 6:27 AM / 2 years ago

Panthers build big lead, hold off Saints

(The Sports Xchange) - The Panthers scored on a few short drives after first-half mistakes by the New Orleans Saints, and Carolina held on for a 23-20 victory Thursday night at Bank of America Stadium.

Nov 17, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Tim Hightower (34) carries the ball as Carolina Panthers defensive end Kony Ealy (94) defends during the fourth quarter at Bank of America Stadium. The Panthers defeated the Saints 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints, who trailed by 20 points midway through the third quarter, pulled within 23-20 with 2:52 left on tight end Coby Fleener’s 8-yard touchdown catch from Drew Brees, but didn’t take another snap until the 14-second mark.

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton threw for one touchdown, completing 14 of 33 passes for 192 yards without an interception.

Brees threw two touchdown passes and connected on 35 of 45 throws for 285 yards and one interception.

The Panthers (4-6) played the final minutes without star linebacker Luke Kuechly, who was evaluated for a concussion.

Carolina opened the third quarter by going 51 yards in 14 plays, scoring on a Graham Gano 42-yard field goal for a 23-3 advantage.

The Saints’ (4-6) only third-quarter possession included two fourth-down conversions and 16 plays, but they ended with Wil Lutz’s 30-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Saints running back Mark Ingram was placed in concussion protocol midway through the third quarter, while the Panthers lost defensive end Mario Addison to a fourth-quarter foot injury.

Carolina held a 20-3 halftime lead and converted when Kuechly returned a blocked field goal into New Orleans territory.

Brees had a pair of first-half turnovers and the Panthers scored off those and another New Orleans blunder helped set up the next points after Marcus Murphy muffed the ensuing kickoff out of bounds at the one-yard line and the Saints ended up punting from their end zone. Gano drilled a 49-yard field goal.

The game’s first possession ended with defensive end Mario Addison sacking Brees, causing a fumble and recovering it.

After reaching the Saints’ 1 for first-and-goal, a roughing-the-kicker penalty gave the Panthers a first down at the six. Another large loss and Carolina ended up with Gano’s 32-yarder.

Both teams were coming off devastating losses Sunday. The Saints were primed to go ahead when they lined up for a late extra-point kick against Denver, but the blocked attempt was returned for a winning two-point defensive conversion.

The Panthers blew a 17-0 lead against Kansas City, coming unhinged with a pair of fourth-quarter turnovers and losing on a field goal on the game’s final play.

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