NEW ORLEANS — After almost everything went right for the Saints in Week 1 very little went right against the Carolina Panthers.
The Saints trailed for the entire game in the 26-7 defeat. They struggled on defense with key defenders missing and failed to convert on third downs to keep the offense on the field.
"Obviously, it's a disappointing loss. Give Carolina credit. We did a number things, things you can't do to win a game. Offensively particularly. It's as poor as we've been," said Saints head coach Sean Payton.
Most of the Saints offensive staff was not on the sidelines. Six offensive coaches and two defensive coaches out because of COVID-19 protocols.
On the Panthers opening drive, they went right down the field. Sam Darnold was three for three and Christian McCaffrey had a chunk of those yards on a 32-yard catch and run.
Darnold capped off the drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Zylstra to give the Panthers a 7-0 lead.
The Saints offensive stalled on their first two drives and gained a total of 15 yards.
Carolina took a 10-0 lead at the beginning of the second quarter on a Zane Gonzalez 23-yard field goal. Darnold connected with D.J. Moore to take a 17-0 lead.
Just before halftime, the Saints offense crossed midfield looking to score their first points of the game. The drive ended with Jameis Winston's pass intended for Deonte Harris being picked off by Juston Burris.
Winston completed 11 of 22 passes, for 111 yards, two interceptions, and one rushing touchdown.
Winston's 26.9 passer rating was the worst of his career.
Alvin Kamara's days was just as bad he rushed for only five yards. It was just the third time in his career he's been limited to fewer than 10 yards rushing.
The Saints had a few chances in the second half to mount a comeback but failed. The first came on a Carl Granderson blocked a field that Zack Baun returned 33 yards.
Five players later, the Saints turned the ball over on downs when Winston was sacked.
Late in the third quarter defensive tackle Malcolm Roach picked of Darnold to set up the Saints only score of the game.
McCaffrey ran in an 11-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.
Next week the Saints will be on the road again against the New England Patriots at 12 p.m. The team is planning to return to New Orleans after the game to prepare for their home opener against the New York Giants.