John Carney could not have asked for a betterstart to his 23rd season as an NFL kicker.
Only days after rejoining the Saints at age 46, Carney hit threefield goals to help New Orleans edge the Carolina Panthers 16-14 onSunday.
The Saints signed Carney last Tuesday, two days after GarrettHartley had missed a 29-yard field goal in overtime in a 27-24 lossto Atlanta.
While the Saints were able to manage only one touchdown on ascreen pass to Lance Moore, Carney hit twice from 32 yards andagain from 25 with 3:55 to go to put New Orleans (3-1) ahead tostay.
Drew Brees was 33 of 48 for 275 yards passing and the TD toMoore.
Carolina rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen completed 11 of 20passes for 146 yards, highlighted by his 55-yard scoring strike toJonathan Stewart. DeAngelo Williams' 39-yard TD run gave Carolina(0-4) a 14-10 lead in the third quarter before Carney made his lasttwo field goals.
Clausen came close to pulling off the game-winning drive. Heconverted a fourth-and-4 play on a rollout pass to David Gettisalong the sideline at the New Orleans 38 with 1:46 to go.
A few more yards could have gotten Carolina in range for a fieldgoal to win it, but after Williams gained 2 yards on the next play,he was dropped by Usama Young for a 4-yard loss on the play afterthat.
Malcolm Jenkins then sacked Clausen, setting up a fourth-downplay from the New Orleans 44 in the final seconds.
Clausen's pass for Dwyane Jarrett was broken up by Jabari Greerwith 8 seconds to go, allowing the Saints to avoid what would havebeen a major upset by a winless team that came in as a 13-pointunderdog. The victory also kept the Saints even with Atlanta atopthe NFC South.
Playing without running back Pierre Thomas, who hurt his leftankle in the loss to Atlanta, the Saints relied on rookie ChrisIvory and veteran Ladell Betts, who was signed less than two weeksago after Reggie Bush fractured a bone in his lower right leg.
Ivory finished with 67 yards on 12 carries while Betts rushed 13times for 47 yards. Betts also had four catches for 23 yards.Devery Henderson had 59 yards receiving on six catches, whileJeremy Shockey had 58 yards, also on six catches.
Williams finished with 86 yards rushing for Carolina, whichamassed 118 yards rushing.
The Saints might have made it a rout in the first half, whenthey outgained the Panthers 235 yards to 108, but two turnoverscost them. One promising New Orleans drive stalled when Moorefumbled on a hit by Sherrod Martin at the Carolina 1 and Martinrecovered in the end zone.
Another drive ended when rookie running back Chris Ivory fumbledon a hit by Richard Marshall, who also recovered on the Carolina21.
Late in the second quarter, the Saints had to settle forCarney's first field goal. Hartley, who remains on the roster butwas scratched for this game, watched from the sideline as Carneyhit from 32 yards.
The Saints were struggling to move the ball in third quarter,but long-snapper Jason Kyle made a big hit on punt coverage toforce a fumble by Captain Munnerlyn, which Courtney Roby recovered.
That set up Carney's second field goal to make it 14-13 late in thethird quarter.