NEW ORLEANS -- It's been only a week since 46-year-old John Carney was chasing his kids, coaching flag football, attending school events with his daughter and doing "all the fun stuff you get to do when you're home."
"But it doesn't pay very well," he added.
He's getting paid now, and earning every cent so far.
Only days after joining the Saints for his 23rd season as an NFL kicker, Carney drilled three crucial field goals to help New Orleans edge the Carolina Panthers 16-14 on Sunday.
The Saints signed Carney last Tuesday, two days after Garrett Hartley missed a 29-yard field goal in overtime in a 27-24 loss to Atlanta.
While the Saints were able to manage only one touchdown on a screen pass to Lance Moore, Carney hit twice from 32 yards and again from 25 with 3:55 to go to put New Orleans (3-1) ahead to stay.
"He's just a pro. That's all you can say," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. "It's just ingrained in him. He's one of these very focused, very regimented guys."
Wearing a knee brace in a game for the first time since high school, Brees was 33 of 48 for 275 yards passing and the TD to Moore.
Brees' knee had bothered him since he was hit by Falcons defensive end John Abraham last week, but the quarterback said the brace had nothing to do with low point production in an otherwise solid performance that produced 383 yards and 38:22 in time of possession.
Rather, fumbles by Moore and rookie running back Chris Ivory -- both deep in Carolina territory -- along with several dropped passes and missed blocks, slowed the Saints.
"This was a 30-point day we turned into 16 points with turnovers and a lack of execution," Brees said.
"We're going to save all the scoring and everything else until the end of the season I guess, which isn't so bad," Brees added. "We haven't scored like we're used to scoring and yet we're 3-1 and a field goal away from being 4-0."
Carolina rookie Jimmy Clausen completed 11 of 20 passes for 146 yards, highlighted by his 55-yard scoring strike to Jonathan Stewart. DeAngelo Williams' 39-yard TD run gave Carolina (0-4) a 14-10 lead in the third quarter before Carney made his last two field goals.
Clausen came close to pulling off what would have been his first game-winning drive as a pro. He converted a fourth-and-4 play on a rollout pass to David Gettis along the sideline at the New Orleans 38 with 1:46 to go.
"For Clausen to make that fourth-down play late in the game, that speaks volumes for what I think is inside of him," offensive tackle Jordan Gross said.
A few more yards could have gotten Carolina in range for a field goal to win it, but after Williams gained 2 yards on the next play, he was dropped by Usama Young for a 4-yard loss.
Malcolm Jenkins then sacked Clausen.
"They were blitzing and I just couldn't get it out quick enough," Clausen said. "I can't take a sack in that situation."
On fourth down from the New Orleans 44, Clausen tried to hit Dwyane Jarrett along the sideline, but cornerback Jabari Greer broke up the play with 8 seconds left, allowing the Saints to avoid an upset by a winless team that came in as a 13-point underdog.
Playing without running back Pierre Thomas, who hurt his left ankle in the loss to Atlanta, the Saints relied on Ivory and veteran Ladell Betts, who was signed less than two weeks ago after Reggie Bush fractured a bone in his lower right leg.
Ivory finished with 67 yards on 12 carries while Betts rushed 13 times for 47 yards. Betts also had four catches for 23 yards. Devery Henderson had 59 yards receiving on six catches, while Jeremy Shockey had 58 yards, also on six catches.
Williams rushed for 86 yards for Carolina, which had 118 yards rushing.
The Saints struggled to move the ball in the third quarter, but long-snapper Jason Kyle made a big hit on punt coverage to force a fumble by Captain Munnerlyn, which Courtney Roby recovered. That set up Carney's second field goal to make it 14-13. While Carney connected on clutch kicks, Hartley, who remains on the roster, watched from the sideline.
Carney said he believes Hartley, a playoff hero a season ago, will be a great kicker in the NFL and was glad to have the chance to work with him again. Last season, the Saints carried both kickers for 11 games before making Carney a kicking coach.
"It's a great situation," Carney said. "I feel blessed and fortunate to have the opportunity to come back here and help the Saints, whether in a playing capacity or coaching capacity."
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