NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Drew Brees passed for 287 yards and two touchdowns without two top receivers and the Saints quarterback rushed for another score to lead New Orleans to a 27-24 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
The Panthers had driven across midfield in the final minutes when Marcus Davenport’s sack of Teddy Bridgewater led coach Matt Rhule to send out kicker Joey Slye for a 65-yard field goal on fourth-and-19. The kick fell just short of the crossbar and the Saints (4-2) were able to run out the final 1:55 while the Panthers (3-4) dropped their second straight game.
Brees completed 29 of 36 passes to eight targets despite not having receivers Michael Thomas (hamstring) and Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19) in the lineup. His decision making and accuracy also helped New Orleans convert 12 of 14 third downs.
On their only two third-down failures, Wil Lutz came through with field goals of 41 and 43 yards.
Brees’ touchdown passes went 4 yards to Jared Cook, who completed the catch after bobbling the ball in tight coverage, and 4 yards to Deonte Harris 2 seconds before halftime.
Alvin Kamara gained 148 yards from scrimmage, with 83 coming on 14 rushes.
That was just enough to overcome a strong showing by Bridgewater in his first game against the Saints since serving as Brees’ backup in New Orleans the past two seasons.
Bridgewater was 23 of 28 for 254 yards and two touchdowns, including a 74-yarder to DJ Moore, who also had a 7-yard catch-and run around the right end for a score. Curtis Samuel ran for a 5-yard touchdown that tied the game at 24 at the end of the third quarter.
But Carolina managed just 37 yards rushing against one of the NFL’s top run defenses.
FANS IN STANDS
In what was the Saints’ fourth home game of 2020, ticketed fans were permitted inside the Superdome for the first time this season — albeit a relatively small number of them. An agreement with the city allowed 3,000 members of the public plus player and staff guests to sit in the lower bowl of the stadium.
While the fans were audible and appeared delighted to be in attendance, crowd noise was negligible relative to the deafening levels reached when a typical non-pandemic crowd of 73,000 fills the dome.
Panthers: Left tackle Russell Okung (left calf) walked off after receiving attention on the field.
Saints: Left tackle Terron Armstead left the game in the first half with an arm injury and was replaced by James Hurst. He gave up a sack by Brian Burns on which Brees fumbled, stalling a Saints threat and initiating a Panthers scoring drive. Receiver Marquez Callaway limped to the sideline in the fourth quarter after making his eighth catch of the game (for 75 yards).
Panthers: host Atlanta on Thursday night.
Saints: visit Chicago on Sunday.