CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints still have one of the league’s top-scoring offenses, but lately it’s the defense that’s been carrying the NFL’s most complete team.
On a night when Brees and the offense couldn’t get much going and made some uncharacteristic mistakes, New Orleans put the clamps on Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers in a 12-9 victory on Monday night, moving the Saints into position to lock up home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs.
“I believe in us, game in and game out, first quarter to fourth quarter,” defensive end Cam Jordan said. “If it comes down to a crucial play, I believe in us.”
The Saints (12-2) held an opponent to 17 points or fewer for a sixth straight game. They limited Newton to 131 yards passing, sacked him four times and forced two turnovers. Carolina (6-8), which lost its sixth straight, had just 247 yards and 13 first downs. The Panthers’ only scores came on a trick play on fourth down and an interception return on a 2-point conversion attempt.
“So proud of the defense,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “I thought they were outstanding. It’s tough to win a division game on the road and we were able to do that.”
Alvin Kamara had 103 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown, and Brees had 203 yards passing for the Saints, who took a one-game lead in the NFC over the Rams. The Saints close the season at home against Pittsburgh and Carolina; the Rams visit Arizona and host San Francisco.
Newton struggled throwing the ball more than 10 yards downfield because of a lingering sore right shoulder. He said after the game he’s unsure what the injury is, but he mentioned his labrum and rotator cuff as possible issues. He has been limited in practice for weeks and doesn’t have the zip on the ball he normally has.
So much for his boast that the Panthers were bringing a cup to steal the “juice” from the Saints.
″(Newton) said something along the lines of they brought their own cup, a juice box or something, I don’t know what it was,” Jordan said. “But I do know that he’s got to go back to the refrigerator and pull out a bigger cup.”
The Saints swept three games from the Panthers last season and knocked them out of the playoffs, prompting Jordan to send Newton a bottle of red wine in the offseason, while some other teammates gave him a broom. This loss likely ended Carolina’s playoff hopes again.