EditorsNote: corrects time in eighth graph, Chris Manhertz’s name in 14th graph,
The New Orleans Saints scored a fourth-quarter touchdown, and that was enough for a 12-9 victory against the Carolina Panthers on Monday night in Charlotte, N.C.
Drew Brees completed 23 of 35 passes for 203 yards and an interception for the NFC South champion Saints (12-2), who overcame glitches on offense throughout the game. New Orleans would wrap up home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs by registering one win in the last two weeks of the season.
Carolina (6-8) has lost six straight games and clings to slim playoff hopes.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who has had a sore shoulder, finished 16 of 29 for 131 yards and one interception.
Alvin Kamara’s 16-yard run with 12:12 remaining was the only touchdown of the game for the Saints, who trailed 7-6 before that play. However, Brees threw an interception on the two-point conversion attempt, with Panthers’ rookie cornerback Donte Jackson making a return of about 100 yards for a two-point defensive score.
The 11-play, 84-yard touchdown drive included a 17-yard run by Saints’ backup quarterback Taysom Hill.
Once New Orleans forced a punt on Carolina’s ensuing possession, the Saints chewed up more than seven minutes. The march included Kamara’s 3-yard run on fourth-and-1 from the Panthers 14-yard line on the final play before the two-minute warning.
However, when Tommylee Lewis picked up what would have been a game-clinching first down, he fumbled the ball out of the end zone with 1:51 left.
The Panthers, who had exhausted their timeouts, moved the ball only 19 yards before turning it over on downs.
The teams will meet again in less than two weeks in the regular-season finale.
The Panthers opened the scoring with a trick play when running back Christian McCaffrey connected with tight end Chris Manhertz for a 50-yard touchdown pass on a fourth-and-2 snap late in the first quarter.
The Saints scored field goals on their next two possessions, with Wil Lutz converting from 46 and 24 yards.
The score remained 7-6 through the end of the first half even though both teams threatened.
The Saints had the ball near midfield at the two-minute warning, but Brees’ pass was intercepted by James Bradberry on a ricochet.
The Panthers reached the New Orleans 13 before Newton was intercepted in the end zone by Eli Apple.
Carolina moved inside the New Orleans 20 in the third quarter before receiver DJ Moore fumbled on a rushing play.
The Saints finished their road slate with a league-best 7-1 record.
—Field Level Media