At this point of the season, it’s all about getting wins on the board by any means necessary. The New Orleans Saints (12-2) did just that on Monday night with a strong defensive effort that resulted in a 12-9 win over the Carolina Panthers (6-8) to secure an all-important first round bye and some added cushion between themselves and the Los Angeles Rams when it comes to home field advantage.
After both teams exchanged punts to start the primetime matchup, Cam Newton marched the Panthers down the field with seven-play drive that ended with Christian McCaffrey of all people connecting with Chris Manhertz on 4th-and-2 and he took it 50 yards to draw first blood.
The Saints weren’t going to be shut out in the first quarter for a third straight ballgame and Wil Lutz made it so with a 46-yard field goal to make it 7-3 with 2:20 left in the first.
Wil Lutz got the Saints within one early on in the second quarter, this time making a 24-yard field goal to make it 7-6 and it remained that way as both headed into the locker room thanks to a late interception by Eli Apple in the endzone.
The Saints got back on the board early in the fourth quarter after a methodical 16-yard run by Alvin Kamara capped off an 11-play drive to make it 12-7. However, the Panthers made it interesting when former LSU Tiger Donte Jackson picked off Drew Brees and took it to the house to make it a three-point ballgame.
The Saints offense had another lengthy drive that they took to the two-minute warning and were at the Carolina five-yard line. However, Tommylee Lewis fumbled the ball as he dove toward the endzone to give the Panthers the ball at the 20-yard line. However, the defense stepped up in the final moments of the game to clinch the 12-9 win.
The Saints will return to action on Sunday when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5-1) with kickoff slated for 3 pm.