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Brees turns back the clock, leads Saints past Panthers in National Football League playoffs

12 January 2018

New Orleans beat the Panthers, 31-21, in the dome on December 3 and won, 34-13, at Carolina on September 24.

The rules changed, but the Carolina Panthers may not have.

And now the Saints are moving on to take on the Minnesota Vikings next Sunday.

Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, and Mark Ingram were unsafe enough, but Alvin Kamara has added a new layer to the offense, making the Saints as deadly as anyone on the offensive side of the ball.

Backup Derek Anderson came into the game to replace Newton, the Panthers down by the score of 24-19 midway through the fourth quarter.

Newton sat on the field near the sideline after the play, and while a new National Football League rule calls for players to be taken to the locker room to be evaluated for concussions if they appear to be struggling to stand, Newton said part of his helmet got pushed into his eyelid. "It was very clear that they were determined to play (against) the run, so there were probably going to be some plays on the outside". The Saints lead the Panthers 21-9 at half, in front of an electric Superdome crowd. Brees rolled out far right, and he proved his 39-year-old (on January 15) legs are still good enough.

Offensively, the Saints have evolved as well, particularly with the emergence of versatile running back Alvin Kamara, who put up regular-season numbers (728 yards and eight TDs rushing, 826 yards and five TDs receiving and a kickoff return TD) worthy of rookie-of-the-year consideration. The pass was incomplete, but the Saints' Ken Crawley was called for pass interference.

Star tight end Greg Olsen is back on the playing field for the Panthers, and he has the Panthers' medical staff to thank for his recovery.

Yet despite the offensive struggles for most of the game, the Panthers still had a chance to pull it out when Brees and Payton chose to gamble on fourth down at the Carolina 47 yard line with under two minutes to go, knowing a first down would seal the victory. I thought the ball passed the line of scrimmage. It appears Cam Newton was outside of the pocket before releasing the pass that was deemed intentional grounding. "They came back late in the fourth quarter, made this a game".

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Carolina posted four drives of 50-plus yards that lasted at least five plays.

Newton finished 24 of 40 passing for 349 yards and two touchdowns, including a 56-yard scoring strike to Christian McCaffrey that pulled the Panthers within a touchdown with 4:09 left.

Carolina drove down the field and had a chance to win the game with eleven seconds to play, and the ball on the New Orleans 34 yard line.

Gano, who missed a 25-yarder in the first quarter, nailed a 58-yard field goal to close out the half.

In the end, like so many times before (but not a lot this season), Brees was the difference.

Newton failed to complete a pass to Clay on third-and-2, which sent Gano out for the failed field-goal try.

The Panthers have two head doctors to handle players' injuries.

It wasn't scoreless for long.

Brees turns back the clock, leads Saints past Panthers in National Football League playoffs