Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
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NEW ORLEANS ― Carolina came into Sunday’s game in the Superdome having scored at least 27 points in four of the previous five games.
The Saints made it four in the final six.
New Orleans’ defense buckled down in the second half, keeping Panthers off the scoreboard for the final 30 minutes in winning 45-17 in the regular season finale.
The defense kept rookie sensation Cam Newton contained, allowing him to run for just 32 yards while holding him to 15 of 25 passing for only 158 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
After allowing a combined 236 yards on the first four series, New Orleans allowed only 65 yards on the final seven.
“The first couple of series they came out with some new stuff and some trick stuff,” Saints safety Roman Harper said. “They were trying to keep us off balance.”
The key stop seemingly came midway through the second quarter when Carolina returned a Drew Brees interception to New Orleans’ 36. Six plays netted 13 yards and the Panthers were forced to settle for an Olindo Mare field goal.
Though the Panthers would tie the game on the next possession, it seemed akin to Rocky cutting Drago the first time – their confidence was rocked.
And if the Saints hold their opponent to field goals, there’s a feeling the game is in hand.
“Absolutely,” linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar said. “Our offense is playing lights out. If you hold a team to a field goal, we’re pretty sure our offense is going to put up seven points.”
Carolina, which came in with the NFL’s No. 4 offense, went 0-for-5 on third down and was held to just 301 total yards.
“Definitely holding them to 17 points is a good day against that offense,” Dunbar said. “That offense is top five in the league. Our defensive staff made a good job with our adjustments at halftime. We changed up a couple of checks and we did a couple of things to combat what they were doing. It worked well.”