NEW ORLEANS — Doug: After all the penalties, the mess, the confusion and everything else that wasn't pretty — the bottom line is, with five games to go in the season, the Saints have a four-game lead in the NFC South.

The takeaway is, the Saints got a win in a game where they made many mistakes that could have cost them the game.

Ricardo: It's almost like the Saints wanted to hand the Panthers the game. A close game like this should be expected when the Saints are playing a divisional opponent. 

New Orleans plays Carolina twice a year, so both teams are familiar with each other enough to make this close game. A Saints win Sunday was never going to be easy.

There were two times when the Saints were up by two scores — 14 points, but the Panthers were able to come back. Part of the reason Carolina was able to come back was Saints penalties: 12 flags for 123 yards.

That is a lot of penalties and penalty yards to give up. Saints Coach Sean Payton said it wasn't the Saints' best game, nor was it New York's best game, meaning he probably didn't like some of those calls or penalties during the game.

Doug: A lot of the questions Sean Payton got during the post-game press conference had to do with those calls.

Drew Brees performed unbelievably good during the first three quarters, but he didn't have a good fourth quarter. He threw that bad interception, which set up a Carolina score, but he did come back during that two-minute drive.

That two-minute drive was vintage saints.

Ricardo: Drew Brees now has 50 fourth quarter/overtime game-winning drives, so he was going to come through when he's in that situation. He got that opportunity because the Saints stopped Carolina.

It was a big goalline stop for the Panthers. It seemed like — after that pass interference was called and challenged by Carolina Coach Ron Rivera. The Saints kept Christian McCaffery out of the endzone and Kyle Allen from throwing a touchdown.

Carolina Kicker Joey Slye cost the Panthers 5 points: a field goal and two extra points.

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