Oct 30, 2014 10:24 PM
Saints take 14-0 lead on Panthers at halftime
The Associated Press
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Mark Ingram and Jimmy Graham each scored late in the second quarter to give the New Orleans Saints a 14-0 lead over the Carolina Panthers at halftime of Thursday night's game.
Ingram's short run gave the Saints an immediate score after a fumble by Cam Newton deep in Carolina's end that got New Orleans on the board.
Then, after forcing a three-and-out, Drew Brees directed an 85-yard drive that ended when he slipped a 1-yard pass just past Melvin White to Graham on the right side with 3 seconds left in the half.
That got the Saints off and running after a mistake-filled opening quarter in a game to determine the NFC South lead.
Brees lost turnovers on both of New Orleans' first two drives, but finished with 172 yards on 15-for-21 passing and had the Saints gaining big chunks of yards early.
Ingram, meanwhile, had 44 yards rushing by halftime.
There wasn't much to feel good about for the Panthers, with Newton looking off-target through the first 30 minutes as the team heard plenty of boos from the home fans as they headed to the locker room.
Newton threw for 47 yards on 5-for-15 passing and had a costly fumble, with Junior Galette knocking it loose from behind near the goal line as Newton tried to scramble to buy time on third down late in the half. The Saints recovered at the Carolina 4 to set up Ingram's 3-yard score with 2:38 left.
While Newton struggled, his receivers didn't give him much help, either.
Jerricho Cotchery couldn't haul in a catchable deep ball inside the 10 in the first quarter and Newton's on-target throw hit Brenton Bersin in the hands and popped straight to Corey White for an interception on the next drive.
Carolina had just 89 yards at halftime.
Brees had the Saints gaining chunks of yards on both of their first two drives only to see the Panthers' defense get a takeaway.
New Orleans pushed inside the Carolina 15-yard line on the game-opening drive before Brees' pass for Kenny Stills was deflected to Panthers defensive lineman Dwan Edwards for the interception.
Then, after the Saints forced a punt, Brees quickly pushed the Saints to midfield only to have Carolina's Charles Johnson push fullback Erik Lorig into him and knock the ball loose as he looked downfield for a fumble.
Those turnovers killed early momentum for an offense that was coming off a big performance against Green Bay and had gained at least 18 yards on five different plays on the first two drives Thursday night.
The Panthers had won just one of their past six games coming in along with a tie at Cincinnati in Week 6, including falling at home last week to Seattle on a late touchdown.
The Saints, meanwhile, were 0-4 on the road this season.
Still, New Orleans was coming off a dominating second-half performance at home, fittingly in which it scored 28 points after the break to speed past the Packers 44-23.
There were no shortages of promising signs for the Saints in that one, from Graham hauling in a touchdown catch and looking healthier after a shoulder injury to Ingram running for a career-best 172 yards to complement Brees through the air.
The Panthers got running back DeAngelo Williams back for this one after missing four straight games with an ankle injury. He got the first carry for Carolina and split time with Jonathan Stewart in the backfield.
Carolina was without three starting offensive linemen left tackle Byron Bell and guards Amini Silatolu and Trai Turner due to injuries.
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