After getting smacked around in the first two games of the season, the New Orleans Saints decided it was time to smack someone else around. That someone else just happened to be division rival the Carolina Panthers.
Early on it looked like the game was going to repeat the same formula as the first two. The Panthers, who were behind their running game, quickly worked down the field on the New Orleans defense.
The Saints defense made its first of many big plays on the day, as Carolina faced a third-and-four from the New Orleans eight-yard line. Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan was able to bust loose and sack Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
That sack forced the Panthers to kick a field goal for an early 3-0 lead. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees quickly answered with the help of receiver Michael Thomas. Brees completed five passes to Thomas on the Saints opening drive, including a five-yard touchdown.
Down 7-3, Carolina went right back down the field, but once again the New Orleans defense stood tall and forced another field goal. With a 7-6 lead, New Orleans couldn’t answer on its next drive and was forced to punt.
Newton threw his first of three interceptions on the next drive. Brees jumpstarted the offense and converted the turnover into a touchdown, giving the Saints a 14-6 lead.
The interception was the first turnover for the Saints defense this season. New Orleans forced Carolina to punt on its next drive as the unit finally began to gain confidence.
Brees got the offense going again as time dwindled in the first half, but a Panthers sack ended any chance of getting into the end zone. New Orleans kicker Wil Lutz kicked a 33-yard field goal as time expired, giving the Saints a 17-3 lead at half.
It was the first time all season that the Saints took a lead into the break. New Orleans got rolling on offense again at the start of the third quarter.
Former Panthers player and current Saints player Ted Ginn Jr. caught a 40-yard touchdown pass as New Orleans extended its lead to 24-6 on its opening drive in the second half. Both teams traded punts on their next possessions as both defenses began to make plays.
Carolina got its offense going late in the third quarter as Newton led the Panthers to their lone touchdown of the day and cut New Orleans’ lead to 24-13. The Saints answered right back with a 50-yard Lutz field goal early in the fourth quarter for a 27-13 lead.
New Orleans kicked off Newton for the second time, as safety Kenny Vaccaro went from being benched against New England last week to getting his first interception of the season. The Saints missed a 56-yard field goal after the interception.
Once again, the Saints defense made another big play by picking off Newton for the third and final time. New Orleans rookie running back Alvin Kamara busted loose on a 25-yard touchdown run, sealing the game. It was Kamara’s first NFL touchdown and gave the Saints an insurmountable 34-13 lead.
New Orleans controlled the rest of the game and earned its first win of the season. The Saints defense held the Carolina offense to 288 total yards. New Orleans ran for 141 yards and broke the 100-yard mark in rushing for the first time all season.
Brees threw for three touchdowns and 213 yards on 22 of 29 passing. Newton was contained to 167 yards passing on 17 of 26 passing with the three interceptions.
New Orleans left Carolina to fly to London to play the Miami Dolphins this Sunday. If the 1-2 Saints can beat Miami, it will be the earliest the team has reached .500 since doing so in week nine of the 2014 season.
The Saints receive a bye week after playing in London and will host the Detroit Lions after the week off.