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(Sunday, November 8th)
Final Score: New Orleans 30, Carolina 20
New Orleans, LA (Sports Network) - John Carney kicked the go-ahead field goal in the fourth quarter, and Anthony Hargrove's fumble return for a score with two minutes left sealed New Orleans' 30-20 win over Carolina and kept the Saints undefeated.
Drew Brees completed 24-of-35 passes for 330 yards, a touchdown and an interception for the Saints, who improved to 8-0 for the first time in franchise history.
New Orleans trailed by 14 points in the first quarter but erased that deficit to remain one of two undefeated teams in the NFL. The Colts, who got past Houston earlier Sunday, also improved to 8-0.
"That's special, that's really special," Brees said of the Saints' start. "I feel like we have a special group of guys, we've got a special team. Certainly we're not satisfied with just being 8-0."
It wasn't the first such comeback for the Saints, who also trailed the Dolphins two weeks ago, 24-3, before battling back for a 46-34 win. They also trailed the Falcons last week, 14-7, before posting a 35-27 victory.
Robert Meachem caught five passes for 98 yards and a score in the win, while Pierre Thomas finished with 50 yards and a TD on 13 carries.
DeAngelo Williams ended with 149 yards and two touchdowns on 21 touches, but the Panthers (3-5) missed a chance to tighten the NFC South race and get back in playoff contention. Carolina had won three of its last four.
Jake Delhomme threw for 201 yards on 17-of-30 completions for the Panthers, who had not lost a road contest in this series since 2001.
"These games have ebbs and tides," Carolina head coach John Fox said. "We weren't overconfident by any stretch. We've played this team before, we know their potency on offense. We knew it was going to be a 60-minute game, and it was."
Carney connected on a 25-yard field goal just before halftime, which got the Saints within 17-6, and they made it a one-score game shortly into the third.
The Saints began the second half with the ball and went 80 yards in just four plays. Most of the yardage was picked up on Brees' 63-yard pass to Devery Henderson, and Thomas ran 10 yards into the end zone on the next play.
But Carolina responded with a time-consuming drive of its own, a 19-play progression that lasted nearly 10 minutes. The Panthers converted four third downs and reached the Saints' six-yard line, but the drive stalled there, and they settled for a 25-yard field goal from John Kasay.
New Orleans got the ball back with 3:27 left in the quarter and found the end zone again. On the final play of the frame, Meachem caught Brees' deep pass between defenders and ran into the end zone to complete the 54-yard play, making it a 20-20 contest going to the fourth.
The Panthers punted on the ensuing possession but downed the ball at the two- yard line to pin the Saints in bad field possession. However, New Orleans drove out of it and didn't face a third down while getting into Carolina territory.
On a 2nd-and-6 from the Carolina 12, Brees appeared to thread a TD pass to Marques Colston, but the play was ruled an incompletion, and the call was upheld upon being challenged. A holding penalty on the next play backed the Saints up 10 yards, and after another incompletion, Carney's 40-yarder put New Orleans ahead with 4:36 to play.
Hargrove recovered a Delhomme fumble on Carolina's next series, but the Panthers forced New Orleans to punt from midfield. The Saints' Courtney Roby managed to down the ball at the two, forcing the Panthers to work with a 98- yard field with 2:17 to play and no timeouts.
Carolina's comeback hopes were then dashed when Hargrove poked the ball away from Williams, recovered the ball and stepped across the goal line for a touchdown. New Orleans held on a goal-line stand in the final minute to preserve the 30-20 victory.
"The more you win games like this, the more confidence that you gain. The more that you feel like no matter what the situation that you're in, you're going to be able to win the game," Brees said.
The Panthers got off to a hot start, as Williams ran for a 66-yard score on the second play from scrimmage. Later in the first, Carolina's Jon Beason recovered a Brees fumble at the Saints 11, and two runs from Williams later, the Panthers had a 14-0 lead.
New Orleans reached the Carolina 5 on a drive that spanned the first two quarters, but Brees fumbled on 3rd-and-goal and recovered the ball at the Carolina 17. Carney came on to kick a 23-yard field goal to put the Saints on the board.
Kasay's 32-yard field goal with 5:30 left in the half put the Panthers up, 17-3.
The Panthers fumbled five times, losing three...Steve Smith led Carolina with four catches for 64 yards...Henderson added three receptions for 93 yards for the Saints, while Reggie Bush had seven for 37 yards....Saints linebacker Scott Fujita (calf) missed a third straight game, while defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis (knee) was out for a second straight week.
11/08 21:14:28 ET