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National Football League
Carolina 23, New Orleans 20
When: 8:25 PM ET, Thursday, November 17, 2016
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
Temperature: 63°
Head Official: Peter Morelli
Attendance: 73288

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- This time, the Carolina Panthers figured out to finish the job.

In danger of squandering a double-digit lead for the second time in five days, the Panthers held on for a 23-20 victory against the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night at Bank of America Stadium.

"You've got to keep fighting," Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said. "A lot of times this year, you've seen it go the other way."

The Panthers (4-6) scored on a few short drives after first-half mistakes by Saints, and they emerged with the victory despite producing only 223 yards of total offense.

"We won," Newton said. "I'm not going to downplay that we won. ... Just finding ways to win, that's what we have to get back to. It doesn't matter how we do it."

The Saints, who trailed by 20 points midway through the third quarter, pulled within 23-20 with 2:52 left on tight end Coby Fleener's 8-yard touchdown catch of a Drew Brees pass.

New Orleans (4-6) didn't take another snap until the 14-second mark at their own 14-yard line after a Carolina punt.

"We've got to make the tackles, and I think we did that," Panthers safety Kurt Coleman said of the defense in general. "We didn't let them get loose."

Newton threw for one touchdown, completing 14 of 33 passes for 192 yards without an interception.

Brees threw two touchdown passes and connected on 35 of 44 throws for 285 yards and one interception.

The Saints were held to three points through three quarters.

"Those two turnovers killed us," New Orleans receiver Willie Snead said. "You know it's just a big momentum swing in the first half. In the second half, we started clicking a little more, and it put us in position to score."

The outcome came days after the Panthers wasted a 17-point lead in a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Panthers won for the third time in four games, forging a split of the season series with New Orleans.

"It wasn't pretty at all," Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson said. "We have to learn how to put teams away."

Carolina played the final minutes Thursday night without star linebacker Luke Kuechly, who was taken from the field on a cart with 4:41 remaining to be evaluated for a concussion.

Carolina didn't have a sustained drive until opening the third quarter by going 51 yards in 14 plays, scoring on a Graham Gano's 42-yard field goal for a 23-3 advantage.

The Saints' only third-quarter possession included two fourth-down conversions and 16 plays, but they ended with Wil Lutz's 30-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter.

New Orleans was within 23-13 with 11:22 to play after Brees' 9-yard touchdown pass to receiver Brandon Coleman, with a four-play drive covering 51 yards.

Saints running back Mark Ingram was placed in concussion protocol after a 13-yard rushing play midway through the third quarter.

The Panthers lost defensive end Mario Addison to a fourth-quarter foot injury.

Carolina held a 20-3 halftime lead with plenty of help from the Saints.

"It's all about execution," Snead said. "Executing the offense like we know we're good at doing. We just need more consistency week in and week out."

The Panthers converted off several New Orleans mistakes, including when Kuechly returned a blocked field goal (by defensive tackle Vernon Butler) into Saints territory. A Kuechly touchdown was wiped out by a penalty, but on the next play, Newton threw 40 yards to receiver Ted Ginn Jr. for a touchdown with 16 seconds left in the half.

Brees had a pair of first-half turnovers, and the Panthers scored off those, the latter coming in the second quarter following Coleman's interception. That resulted in running back Jonathan Stewart's tiebreaking 1-yard run and a 10-3 lead.

Another New Orleans blunder helped set up the next points after Marcus Murphy muffed the ensuing kickoff out of bounds at the 1-yard line and the Saints ended up punting from their end zone. Gano drilled a 49-yard field goal for a 13-3 lead.

The game's first possession ended with Addison sacking Brees, causing a fumble and recovering it. After reaching the New Orleans 1 for first-and-goal, the Panthers took a second-down sack, leaving them set to settle for Gano's 30-yard field goal until a roughing-the-kicker penalty gave them a first down at the 6. After another large loss, Carolina ended up with Gano's 32-yarder.

New Orleans' first-half scoring drive also involved follies, with Fleener catching a third-down pass for a would-be first down inside the Carolina 10 only to fumble and, although recovering the ball, losing the necessary yardage. The Saints ended up with Lutz's 27-yard field goal.

Both teams were coming off devastating losses Sunday.

The Saints were primed to go ahead when they lined up for a late extra-point kick against Denver, but the blocked attempt was returned for a winning two-point defensive conversion. The Panthers blew a 17-0 lead against Kansas City, coming unhinged with a pair of fourth-quarter turnovers and losing on a field goal on the game's final play.

NOTES: Carolina had C Ryan Kalil back after missing 2 1/2 games with a shoulder injury, but he left in the second half with more shoulder issues. ... LB Shaq Thompson also returned for the Panthers after he missed most of the past two games, though LB A.J. Klein, who had replaced him, was out with an apparent concussion. ... The Panthers used P Michael Palardy, who was signed earlier in the week, after P Andy Lee suffered a hamstring injury Sunday against Kansas City. ... DT Sheldon Rankins and LB Dannell Ellerbe were among the New Orleans defenders who missed last month's game with Carolina and were available Thursday night. Ellerbe notched a second-quarter sack that knocked the Panthers out of field-goal range. ... The Saints made a late roster moving, signing S Chris Banjo. ... New Orleans is home for its next two games, with the Los Angeles Rams visiting Nov. 27. ... The Panthers play their next two games on the West Coast, beginning Nov. 27 at Oakland.
Top Game Performances
New Orleans   Carolina
Tim Hightower Player Jonathan Stewart
12 Attempts 18
69 Yards 31
5.8 Avg Yards 1.7
0 Touchdowns 1
27 Long 10
New Orleans   Carolina
Michael Thomas Player Kelvin Benjamin
5 Receptions 3
68 Yards 56
13.6 Avg Yards 18.7
0 Touchdowns 0
21 Long 19
Team Stats Summary
  Yards Scoring Defense
Team Tot Rus Pas TD FG INT Sck FF
New Orleans 371 107 264 2 2 0 2.0 0
Carolina 223 50 173 2 3 1 3.0 2
Upcoming Games
  • Carolina will play their next game on the road against Oakland. The Panthers have a W/L % of .250 after a win and .500 after a loss.
  • New Orleans will play their next game at home against Los Angeles. The Saints have a W/L % of .500 after a win and .333 after a loss.