Coach Sean Payton kept the offense on the field on fourth-and-short with two minutes remaining and Carolina out of timeouts, hoping for one more first down that would have allowed New Orleans to run out the clock.
The Saints defeated the Carolina Panthers 31-26 on Sunday in a nail biter. Mike Adams hauled the ball in at the Panthers 31, costing Carolina a critical 16 yards. He draws another tough matchup against the Minnesota Vikings in the Divisional Round. Carolina finished the season 11-6. Saints quarterback Drew Brees took a knee, and it was over. The Panthers had held the ball for more than eight minutes, in what was then a scoreless game. "That is all we could ask for", one fan said. "I do believe I am the leader of this team and the team goes as I go". He returned to the game for the Panthers' next series and threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to tailback Christian McCaffrey on his third play back.
Newton quickly completed passes of 19 yards to Devin Funchess and 21 yards to Kaelin Clay, and a defensive holding call on safety Rafael Bush gave Carolina a first down at the Saints' 21. Panthers Coach Ron Rivera expressed displeasure afterward with the intentional grounding call.
After taking a big hit from defensive tackle Tyeler Davison near his head and neck with 9:12 left in the fourth quarter, Newton remained on the ground and appeared to be dazed from the blow. Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram averaged only 1.9 yards per carry.
The former Buckeyes got involved early, as after a missed Panthers field goal, Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to Ginn.
Carolina and New Orleans exchanged field goals in the third quarter - Graham Gano nailed his fourth of the game, from 29 yards out, and Wil Lutz made a career-high-tying 57-yarder - to keep the Saints in front, 24-12. But they sprinted to a lead while their defense limited the fifth-seeded Panthers to field goals instead of touchdowns until the fourth quarter.
"You just got to go out and play football", Ginn said.
"We just couldn't score". An incompletion or sack would have put Cam Newton and Co.in prime position to pull off a shocking comeback. "If you are going to stack the box, try to stop the run and try to take us (running backs) out of the game, then he is going to hurt you".
It was the first time in four red-zone possessions the Panthers scored a touchdown.
New Orleans posted the sixth-best adjusted sack rate during the regular season but couldn't get consistent pressure on Cam Newton, who was able to find open receivers relatively consistently.
Newton also said the injury was to his eye. What did in the Panthers' defense was an inability to cover wideout Michael Thomas, who caught eight of his nine targets for 131 yards. "(Former Saints assistant) Joe Vitt had a saying: "'You win a Super Bowl, you walk together forever'.
The balance of the Saints' offense that was on display during the regular season gave way to Brees being the centerpiece in a pass-first approach Sunday.