NEW ORLEANS — For the second time in two games the Saints made a huge defensive play on a game where defense was mostly lacking in a 27-24 win over the Carolina Panthers Sunday.
A sack by Marcus Davenport on the previously elusive Teddy Bridgewater forced the Panthers to try a 65-yard field goal that was on line but just short.
The Saints held a huge edge in several stats that normally tell the tale of a game – time of possession, plays run, total yards, but a couple of key breakdowns were very costly.
The Saints gained 415 yards on offense to Carolina's 283. They ran 67 plays to Carolina's 43 and they had the ball for nearly 35 minutes to Carolina's 25.
"We won a handful of statistics," said head coach Sean Payton. "We didn’t win the turnover statistics but a lot of others we did."
However, a blown coverage on a 74-yard touchdown pass from Bridgewater to D.J. Moore cut a 14-3 lead to 14-10. Meanwhile a sack and fumble on Drew Brees in Carolina territory prevented a Saints score and Carolina then answered with a touchdown of their own.
Bridgewater, who learned under Brees for two seasons, seemed to have taken the lessons to heart as both he and Brees were sharp in the short and medium-range passing game, but Bridgewater had the long TD pass.
Brees completed 29 of 36 passes for 287 yards and two scores while Bridgewater hit on 23 of 28 for 254 yards and two scores as well.
Later an offensive pass interference cost the Saints a touchdown on a drive where they took a 24-17 lead that could have been 28-17.
All of those mistakes were too nearly too much for the nearly perfect offense to overcome - at least until the defense made a play.
Offensively the Saints relied on rookie free agent Marquez Callaway who seemed to take the role of Michael Thomas as the man looked for by Brees. He had 8 catches for 75 yards, many of them in crucial spots.
"He spends time with me after practice, because I'm new," said Callaway, who said becoming - at least temporarily Brees' favorite target is a big deal.
Callaway looked like he hurt his ankle late but he said after the game that he was alright.
Emmanuel Sanders should be able to return next week after sitting out with a COVID diagnosis during the week and there is no word on Thomas who, it was reported, compounded a high ankle sprain from six weeks ago with a hamstring injury of uncertain severity.
Meanwhile Alvin Kamara played like - Alvin Kamara. He had 14 carries for 83 yards and 8 catches for 65 more.