Saints 31, Panthers 13

The SportsXchange

NEW ORLEANS -- Six days after absorbing their most lopsided loss of the season, the New Orleans Saints carved up the NFL's best scoring defense in a 31-13 rout of the Carolina Panthers on Sunday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The Saints (10-3) took sole possession of first place in the NFC South. They were coming off a 34-7 loss to the Seahawks in deafening conditions Monday night in Seattle.

The Panthers (9-4) saw their eight-game winning streak end.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw two touchdown passes each to wide receiver Marques Colston and tight end Jimmy Graham.

New Orleans' 31 points were the most allowed this season by the Panthers, who entered the night surrendering a league-low 13.1 points per game. Carolina gave up as many as 24 points only one other time this season, in a 24-23 loss to the Buffalo Bills in Week 2.

The Saints spotted Carolina two field goals and a 6-0 first-quarter lead, then unleashed Brees and a raucous, sellout home crowd on the Panthers.

Brees threw scoring passes of 6 and 15 yards to Colston and 5 and 8 yards to Graham, which more than offset first-quarter field goals of 45 and 24 yards by Carolina kicker Graham Gano.

The Saints sacked Panthers quarterback Cam Newton five times -- three by defensive end Junior Galette and two by defensive end Cameron Jordan -- and held him in check (22 of 34 for 160 yards and one touchdown).

Brees finished 30 of 42 for 313 yards, moving him into fifth place all-time with more than 50,000 career passing yards. Brees needed 183 games to surpass the 50,000-yard mark, and he got there eight games faster than Denver quarterback Peyton Manning.

Brees' four touchdown passes gave him 34 on the season against just eight interceptions.

Colston finished with nine receptions for 125 yards.

The Panthers hurt themselves early in the game by not fully capitalizing on excellent field position and by not finishing off time-consuming drives.

Their 13-play, 53-yard drive to open the game burned 6:18 of the clock, but the Panthers had to settle for a 45-yard field goal by Gano after Newton was sacked on third down by Galette.

Then, after forcing a quick three-and-out, Panthers return specialist Ted Ginn Jr. returned a low punt 32 yards with a nifty move down the right sidelines, and Carolina got an extra 15 yards when punter Thomas Morstead tackled Ginn by the facemask.

That set up the Panthers at the New Orleans 32, but they again settled for a Gano field goal, this one from 26 yards, taking a 6-0 lead. At that point, the Panthers had run 22 plays to the Saints 3.

But after a sluggish start, Brees and the Saints offense got into a rhythm, driving to touchdowns on their next three possessions to take control, 21-6.

The three scoring drives went for 80, 86 and 76 yards, and Brees capped the marches with scoring tosses of 6 and 15 yards to Colston and 5 yards to Graham.

Graham's 8-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown was his NFL-leading 14th scoring catch of the season.

NOTES: With a 6-yard scoring pass to WR Marques Colston in the second quarter, Saints QB Drew Brees set an NFL record by throwing at least 30 touchdown passes in six consecutive seasons. He broke Brett Favre's record of five consecutive seasons with at least 30 TD passes, set with the Packers from 1994-98. ... Colston surpassed 8,000 career receiving yards with a 21-yard reception on the Saints' first scoring drive. The Saints had scored a touchdown on just one of their previous 18 possessions. ... After starting 1-for-3 for 1 yard, Brees completed 16 of 18 passes for 182 yards and three TDs in the final 16:52 of the first half.
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