Saints Fall To Panthers, 17-13 but Can Still Win Division
For the second-consecutive week, the New Orleans Saints failed to lock up an NFL playoff berth, after falling to the Carolina Panthers, 17-13, at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina on Sunday.
The win by Carolina gives them a one-game lead over New Orleans in the NFC South with one week to play in the 2013 NFL season.
The Saints can still win the division, but they would have to defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their season finale next Sunday, and hope for an upset win by the Atlanta Falcons over the Panthers.
New Orleans can clinch a wild-card entry with a win next week, or a loss by the Arizona Cardinals to the San Francisco 49ers.
The Saints would miss the playoffs entirely, if they would lose to the Bucs next Sunday, and the Cardinals would win over the 49ers.
In Sunday's game, the Saints took a 6-0 lead on two Shayne Graham second quarter field goals, from 40 and 24 yards away, before the Panthers grabbed the lead before halftime, on a 43-yard touchdown run by DeAngelo Williams.
Carolina scored the only points of the third quarter, on a Graham Gano 40-yard field goal, extending their lead to 10-6.
The Saints grabbed the lead at the 6:37 mark of the fourth quarter, when Drew Brees connected with Jimmy Graham on a 5-yard touchdown pass, giving them a 13-10 advantage.
It was the Panthers who would strike last however, when quarterback Cam Newton threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Domenik Hixon with 23 seconds left, lifting them to the four-point win, before more than 70,000 rain-drenched fans.
New Orleans actually out-gained Carolina, in terms of total yards, 366-222, and also led in time of possession, 38:48/21:12, but suffered from two Brees interceptions, and from their inability to put the football in the end zone early in the game.
Brees finished the game completing 30-of-44 passes for 281 yards, along with one touchdown and two interceptions, while Mark Ingram carried the ball 13 times for 83 yards.
Meanwhile, Carolina was led by Newton, who completed 13-of-22 passes, for 181 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.
With the win, the Panthers, who can clinch the number two seed, and a first-round playoff bye with a win next week, improved to 11-4, while the Saints, who have now lost three of their last four games, dropped to 10-5.
New Orleans, who is still undefeated at home, at 7-0, finished their regular season with a road record of 3-5.