Final

Panthers 13

(9-4, 4-3 away)

Saints 31

(10-3, 7-0 home)

Coverage: NBC

8:30 PM ET, December 8, 2013

Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA 

1 2 3 4 T
CAR 6 0 0 713
NO 0 21 3 731

Top Performers

Passing: D. Brees (NO) - 313 YDS, 4 TD

Rushing: D. Williams (CAR) - 13 CAR, 52 YDS

Receiving: M. Colston (NO) - 9 REC, 125 YDS, 2 TD

Drew Brees throws for 4 TDs as Saints send off Panthers

ESPN.com news services

NEW ORLEANS -- Drew Brees saw his face on giant Superdome video boards, then nodded and smiled as a jubilant crowd applauded the star quarterback's latest milestone and the meaningful way in which he hit it.

Brees passed for 313 yards and four touchdowns and the New Orleans Saints beat the Carolina Panthers 31-13 on Sunday night to regain sole possession of first place in the NFC South and snap the Panthers' winning streak at eight games. In the process, Brees became the fifth quarterback to eclipse 50,000 career passing yards.

"Love this offense. Love what Sean Payton's put together," Brees said.

The Panthers' defense had not allowed more than two touchdowns in a game this season until the Saints (10-3) scored three in the second quarter alone, when Brees completed 14 of 16 passes for 159 yards.

The Saints also became the first team this season to score more than 24 points against Carolina (9-4), which entered the game No. 1 in scoring defense, allowing 13.1 points per game.

Brees' first two scoring strikes went to Marques Colston, who made nine catches for 125 yards. Jimmy Graham added two TD catches, his second making it 31-6 in the fourth quarter.

"We just had great balance," Brees said. "Marques came up with some huge catches, as did Jimmy. The line did a great job ... and the defense did a great job of getting us the ball."

New Orleans sacked Cam Newton five times and did not allow a touchdown until 5:15 remained. Junior Galette had three of New Orleans' sacks and Cameron Jordan two.

The Panthers had the ball for 11:30 of the first quarter, showing an early ability to move the ball in the face of an energized and loud Superdome crowd, but got only two field goals out of it after New Orleans came up with clutch third-down stops, including one on third-and-goal from the 6.

"I'm surprised and disappointed. We're a better team than we played today," Carolina coach Ron Rivera said. "They have the crowd behind them and they're on turf, not natural grass, which is a little bit different. It helps them as far as their speed and their timing. The things that they do here, they do very well. We'll see how things go when they come to Carolina."

Last Monday night, New Orleans visited the Seattle Seahawks looking to lead the race for the top playoff seeding in the NFC, only to fall 34-7 and drop into a tie with Carolina atop their division.

But the Saints looked like legitimate contenders again in their return home, where they are 7-0. They became the first team not to lose a turnover to the Panthers all season.

Brees completed 30 of 42 passes in becoming the first quarterback to pass for at least 4,000 yards in eight straight seasons and pass for 30 TDs in six straight seasons.

New Orleans owns a one-game lead over the Panthers with three games to go but travels to Carolina in two weeks.

"Here we are, attempting to make another run at it," Brees said. "Obviously, some records and some other things, milestones along the way that you get to share, but I'm just glad to be on the journey with this group of guys."

Brees' best drive began with 2:01 left in the first half and New Orleans at its 24. He immediately found Lance Moore for 21 yards, Colston for 19 yards and Darren Sproles for 20, setting up Graham's 5-yard TD catch to make it 21-6.

Newton was 22-of-34 passing for 160 yards, and DeAngelo Williams returned from a quad contusion that sidelined him last week, gaining 52 yards on 13 carries.

"It was a great measuring stick for who we are and where we have to go," Newton said. "The best thing about this is we have an opportunity to face this team again in two weeks. Those guys just were better than us today. Are they better than us? No."

The Panthers struggled to move the ball on most drives after the first quarter, when Graham Gano hit field goals of 45 and 24 yards.

Brees' other TD passes went for 8 yards to Graham and for 6 and 15 yards to Colston, who was hardly surprised by the QB's quick return to form.

"You've just got to see him throughout the week," Colston said. "The man works like I've never seen. He deserves every bit of success that he gets."

Game notes

The other four QBs with 50,000 yards: Brett Favre (71,838), Peyton Manning (64,009), Dan Marino (61,361) and John Elway (51,475). ... Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart left the game with a knee injury and was scheduled to have an MRI exam Monday.

Information from ESPN.com's David Newton and The Associated Press was used in this report.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
CAR
NO
1st Downs1624
Passing 1st downs
919
Rushing 1st downs
73
1st downs from penalties
02
3rd down efficiency
6-157-12
4th down efficiency
1-10-0
Total Plays6261
Total Yards239373
Yards per play3.96.1
Total Drives1010
Passing111304
Comp-Att
22-3430-42
Yards per pass
2.86.9
Interceptions thrown
00
Sacks-Yards Lost
5-492-9
Rushing12869
Rushing Attempts
2317
Yards per rush
5.64.1
Red Zone (Made-Att)1-24-5
Penalties5-355-45
Turnovers00
Fumbles lost
00
Interceptions thrown
00
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00
Possession32:2727:33

Passing Leaders

CARC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Newton22/341604.7105-49
NOC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Brees30/423137.5402-9

Rushing Leaders

CARCARYDSAVGTDLG
Williams13524.009
Newton6488.0019
NOCARYDSAVGTDLG
Sproles13838.0038
Thomas7142.005

Receiving Leaders

CARRECYDSAVGTDLG
Smith Sr.6498.2117
Olsen8405.0013
NORECYDSAVGTDLG
Colston912513.9221
Graham6589.7222

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERCARNO
carFG8:47Graham Gano 45 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 13 plays, 53 yds, 6:18
30
carFG1:59Graham Gano 24 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 9 plays, 26 yds, 5:12
60
SECOND QUARTERCARNO
noTD13:40Marques Colston 6 Yard Pass From Drew Brees (Garrett Hartley Kick is Good)
Drive info: 9 plays, 80 yds, 3:21
67
noTD2:49Marques Colston 15 Yard Pass From Drew Brees (Garrett Hartley Kick is Good)
Drive info: 11 plays, 86 yds, 5:44
614
noTD0:22Jimmy Graham 5 Yard Pass From Drew Brees (Garrett Hartley Kick is Good)
Drive info: 7 plays, 76 yds, 1:43
621
THIRD QUARTERCARNO
noFG4:21Garrett Hartley 19 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 13 plays, 60 yds, 6:01
624
FOURTH QUARTERCARNO
noTD9:58Jimmy Graham 8 Yard Pass From Drew Brees (Garrett Hartley Kick is Good)
Drive info: 8 plays, 58 yds, 3:46
631
carTD5:22Steve Smith 17 Yard Pass From Cam Newton (Graham Gano Kick is Good)
Drive info: 11 plays, 61 yds, 4:37
1331

Research Notes

Drew Brees extended his own NFL record with his 22nd game of 300 Pass yds and 4 Pass TD. Peyton Manning kept pace with Brees on Sunday.
  [+]
Drew Brees was 22-of-26 (85%) against four or fewer pass rushers Sunday, the highest completion percentage the Panthers have allowed in a game in the last six seasons when sending standard pressure. The Panthers allowed three touchdowns when sending a standard pass rush; they had allowed a league-low five touchdowns against such pressure entering the game. - Brees was 7-of-9 with two touchdowns against standard pressure when targeting Marques Colston.
  [+]
Drew Brees completed 67% of his passes that traveled 15 or more yards downfield Sunday. Last week against the Seahawks, Brees didn't complete a deep pass for the second time since 2006. - Cam Newton was 1-of-5 on passes traveling 15+ yards downfield. He has completed more than two deep passes in only one game this season. Last year, he completed at least three deep passes in 12 games.
  [+]
The last time the Panthers defense allowed at least 21 points in the 1st half: Week 17 of 2011 (allowed 24 points - also at Saints).
In divisional games in the last two seasons, only Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers have a higher Total QBR than Cam Newton. After going 2-4 against the NFC South in his rookie season, Newton is 6-3 in divisional games in the last two seasons (and 3-0 this season).
  [+]

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