The weather reports across the East Coast were forecast to be warm and sunny. And that was the case in Carolina when the Panthers and Saints kicked off their pivotal Week 16 matchup, but the clear sky didn’t last long as a torrential downpour opened up on Bank of America Stadium.
The monsoon like conditions created quite the slug-fest between the Saints and Panthers, limiting the teams to a combined 23 points as each side struggled for footing and traction in the rain soaked field.
New Orleans got things started in the second quarter with a Shanye Graham field goal – an act that was repeated a few moments later, giving the Saints a 6-0 lead. Carolina refused to be shutout though in the first half thanks to a DeAngelo Williams rushing touchdown, giving Carolina a 7-6 lead at halftime.
It was a lead that was extended in the third quarter as Graham Gano booted a 40-yard field goal, pushing Carolina’s advantage to 10-6. That lead held until the fourth quarter when Drew Brees rallied the troops and drove down the field, hitting tight end Jimmy Graham for a five-yard touchdown with just six minutes left in the game. The touchdown gave New Orleans a 13-10 lead, though the Panthers stout defense held tough in the Saints’ remaining possessions, giving Carolina and Cam Newton one last chance to either tie or win the game with under a minute remaining.
Facing immense pressure on first down, Newton dropped back and hit an in-stride Ted Ginn for a thirty-plus yard game. Moments later, Newton found Domenick Hixon, who was playing in place of the injured Steve Smith for a last second touchdown, preserving a win for the Panthers.
The victory pushes the Panthers to 11-4 and assures them of a postseason birth. Meanwhile, the Saints loss drops them behind the Panthers in the NFC South with a record of 10-5. New Orleans will hope for a San Francisco loss in the final two weeks (or a Panthers loss in Week 17) to potentially move into a higher seed, assuming they make the postseason.