New Orleans Saints fall into 0-3 hole after loss to Carolina Panthers
By John Hendrix
The New Orleans Saints keep doing one thing well this year, and that’s lose. The team dropped their third straight game of the 2015 season against NFC South rival Carolina Panthers today, 27-22.
Things got off to a great start, as the Saints started with the ball and took the opening drive 60 yards on 12 plays to take an early 3-0 lead. On their next offensive possession, the black and gold found themselves pinned back at their own 6-yard line. However, that didn’t pose a problem, as they’d go 94 yards in 16 plays (9:11). Mark Ingram capped off the Saints drive with a 5-yard rushing touchdown. The Panthers would answer with drives of their own, and tie the game 10-10 entering the half.
By halftime, Luke McCown was 16-for-17 for 124 yards.
The first possession of the third quarter saw the Saints defense force a three and out. Rookie Marcus Murphy would find pay dirt for the first team in his professional career, taking a punt 74 yards to the house to take the lead early in the 3rd quarter. The extra point would be botched, and the lead was short-lived.
The Panthers would answer with a drive of their own, helped out by a couple of Saints penalties, and Brandon Browner getting torched again in coverage, this time by Ted Ginn Jr. for 55 yards. Greg Olsen capped off a 6 play, 83 yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown catch from Cam Newton to put the Panthers up 17-16.
On the ensuing possession, the Saints faced a 4th-and-1 inside their own territory, and Sean Payton opted to go for it, give it to Austin Johnson, who was able to barely convert. Just a few plays later, Ben Watson would cough up the football after a short reception. It ultimately led to a Graham Gano 47-yard field goal to put the Panthers up 20-16 with 1:31 in the 3rd quarter.
An ugly defensive drive led to an easy Cam Newton touchdown to put the Panthers up 27-16, as questionable penalties and horrid play reared its ugly head. Khiry Robinson would keep hope alive as the Saints answered with 4:50 left in the game. The Saints defense forced a three and out on the next series, and gave the ball back to the Saints with a chance for a go-ahead score.
Unfortunately, it came up short. McCown threw an end zone pass intended for Brandin Cooks that was picked off by cornerback Josh Norman with less than two minutes to go, and the Panthers would end up escaping with a 27-22 victory.
The New Orleans Saints will now turn their attention to a Sunday Night Football home game against the Dallas Cowboys, and attempt to pick up the pieces.
- Marcus Murphy became the third rookie in Saints history to return a punt for a touchdown. Tyrone Hughes (1993) and Reggie Bush (2006) were the others. It was the longest punt return since Michael Lewis’ in 2002 (83 yards).
- The Saints got their first special teams touchdown in 66 games – the last came in the 2011 season opener against the Packers, courtesy of Darren Sproles.
- Luke McCown’s 13 first quarter completions were the most by a quarterback in the 1st quarter of any game since Peyton Manning in Week 4 of 2012 (13). He finished out with 31-for-38 for 310 yards, and one interception.
- Greg Olsen finished with 8 receptions, 134 yards, and 2 touchdowns; Brandin Cooks hauled in 7 receptions for 79 yards
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