NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Alvin Kamara turned a short pass into New Orleans’ first touchdown in more than 11 quarters, Brett Maher kicked four field goals, and the Saints beat the reeling Carolina Panthers 18-10 on Sunday.
The third victory in four games for the Saints (8-8) — just their second triumph in the Superdome in their regular-season home finale — assured New Orleans would head into the final week of the regular season still in the hunt for an NFC wild-card spot.
Taysom Hill completed 17 of 28 passes for 222 yards and also led the Saints in rushing with 45 yards while playing behind an offensive line missing four season-opening starters. Marquez Callaway caught six passes for 97 yards and Kamara had five catches for 68 yards, including his 12-yard TD in the fourth quarter.
New Orleans’ defense did the rest, sacking Sam Darnold seven times. Cameron Jordan had 3 1/2 sacks, his third straight game with at least two. C.J. Gardner Johnson sealed it with an interception in the final minute, dooming the Panthers (5-11) to a sixth straight loss.
New Orleans finished the game with Hill triumphantly taking a knee as fans belted out chants of, “Who-dat say they gonna’ beat them Saints!”
Darnold, who resumed the starting role he held earlier this season after Cam Newton had started in Carolina’s previous five losses, completed 17 of 26 passes for 132 yards.
Carolina did not trail in the first half, taking a 10-3 lead on Chuba Hubbard’s slashing 21-yard run early in the second quarter.
New Orleans looked primed to tie it when P.J. Williams dislodged the ball from Darnold on a sack and Marcus Davenport recovered, giving the Saints the ball at the Carolina 13. But New Orleans had to kick a field goal after three unfruitful plays.
With just more than a minute remaining in the half, the Saints faced a third-and-11 from their 3. Conventional wisdom would have been to run the ball and then punt because Carolina had no timeouts. Instead, Hill let fly a 28-yard back-shoulder throw that Callaway caught along the left sideline.
Hill then hit Lil’Jordan Humphrey for 18 yards and Callaway for another 15 before New Orleans used its last timeout. Hill completed one more quick pass to set up Maher’s third field goal as the half ended to make it 10-9.
Most of the third quarter was played on Carolina’s side of the 50, but the Saints had one promising drive stall on an intentional grounding penalty. That pushed them out out of field goal range.
Late in the quarter, New Orleans had a first down on the Panthers’ 18, but again settled for a field goal and a 12-10 lead.
When the third quarter ran out, it marked 11 straight quarters without a TD for the Saints, but they were able to cling the lead into the fourth quarter, helped by Carolina kicker Lirim Hajrullahu’s missed 47-yard field goal attempt.
Saints right tackle Cesar Ruiz, a second-year pro, was New Orleans’ only starting lineman to play. Left tackle Terron Armstead (knee) was scratched for the sixth time in eight games. Right tackle Ryan Ramczyk and center Erik McCoy both were on COVID-19 reserve and left guard Andrus Peat has been on injured reserve since late October.
Saints safety Williams appeared to hurt his left ankle in the second quarter.
Panthers: visit the 2021 NFC South champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
Saints: travel to Atlanta, which has been eliminated from playoff contention, to finish the regular season.