"This is obviously a very disappointing loss," said Head Coach Sean Payton. "I’m proud of the way our team fought back from a pretty good sized deficit. I thought we played better in the second half but that is overshadowed by the two turnovers we committed and by us not being able to protect a lead late in the game."
"The players kept fighting and I thought we had the momentum in the second half," Payton said. "And, we were making plays. We had a lead with three minutes left and needed to make a play. In a lot of ways it was no different than the Chicago game a few weeks ago. The result ends up in a loss. That is really disappointing to me."
"Winning the game was priority number one," Brees said. "If the record came along with that, then great, and it almost did."
"No one said, ‘I hope you beat the Panthers,’" he recalled. "They all said, ‘I hope you get the record.’"
"It was too far to reach the end zone," Brees said, "I would have had to have thrown it about 75 yards or so."
"It hurts any time you lose a game like that," Moore said. "We had the lead and ultimately Drew had a chance to set the record, and we came up short on both counts."
"That record has stood a long time and it belongs to one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time," he said. "Considering it’s a huge record and we’re 8-8, I guess it wasn’t meant for us to get it."
"That’s not necessarily the way that record deserves to be broken," he said. "That’s how I can accept the fact that it didn’t happen."
"I’ll stick with the word ‘possibly,’" Karney, a fullback, said as he held out hope that he might again lead McAllister into the line of scrimmage. "You never know. But if it is (the final game), we had a heck of a time today.
"I had a lot of fun blocking for him today," he said. "The touches he got when I was in there, he got positive yards. It was like old times. He had a great game today, and I was proud of him."
"There’s a possibility that may happen, but I can’t control that," he said. "All I can do is get myself prepared and ready to play a season. Hopefully, it’s here. If it’s not, then it’s not."
"It’s pretty special," he said, "just having an opportunity to play for the New Orleans Saints, just being able to play eight years, playing here through the tough times, the knee surgeries … winning, being close.
"Then the high of being able to win a playoff game, and experience it here and being one game away from going to the Super Bowl (in 2006)."
"I was able to sleep pretty normal, there were no butterflies or anything," he said. "I came over to the stadium like normal to get ready. It was just the last go-round, and that’s what it is."
"He felt pretty good this week, he handled the rehab and the repetitions he got during the work week without a lot of swelling," Payton said. "He made some big plays for us and came up with some big runs and some big catches. I was encouraged with the way he played."
"He’s been here a long time and has been a special part of this organization," Brees said. "He’s been the heart and soul, so we all want to see Deuce back. Whatever happens will happen, but we all love Deuce."
“I looked up and saw 30-10 going into the fourth quarter and thought we can do this,” Brees said. “There’s no better time than now.”
“We both were in position, went up, tried to make the play and tried to get the interception,” New Orleans cornerback Jason David said. “He (Smith) jumped up and timed it very well and made the great play.”
“We made one stop when we needed it and didn’t make the stop when we really needed it,”
“You look at the guys in the locker room and some of the things we’ve done this year and you shake your head and you say, ‘How is it possible we’re 8-8?” Brees said. “It makes no sense. But we are who we are.”
"It was definitely a tough year, probably a little bit tougher than I wanted it to be, not, per se, than I expected," said McAllister, who had torn both of his anterior cruciate ligaments in recent years. "I got lucky with the first ACL surgery and didn't experience any true swelling or discomfort in it. And this one, I wasn't so lucky, so I had the fluid build-up, MCL sprains, etc. But I just tried to continue to be ready to play on Sundays. Monday through Fridays weren't the prettiest, as far as practice is concerned, but on Sunday I just tried to be there and be ready for my team."
"That tandem they have right now is probably the best in the league," Saints linebacker Scott Fujita said. "Numbers-wise, they're kind of shaping up to be one of the best ever in terms of two running backs. So they're doing really well. They break a lot of tackles -- as you saw today, we missed a lot of tackles. It's tough to win when you play that way. But they're a lot to prepare for. They're low, great balance, speed, athletic, all that stuff, and a really, really good, physical offensive line in front of them."
"I think he's made progress," Payton said about Meachem. "He's made some plays above his head. He's a talented guy that can run, and all those things I think will serve him well. And we look forward to continuing to develop him."
"We've had too many games like that this year. You have to make the plays to win the game in situations like that. Wins are too hard to come by in this league," said Saints linebacker Scott Shanle, who broke free for a huge sack to force a punt on Carolina's previous drive. "Steve Smith is a great player, and he made a great play. That's the one play you have to make somewhere along the way."
"He told us to look for it early," said Moore, who caught the final two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. "Obviously, we didn't look early enough."
"This has been somewhat the story of the season, and that's not a good thing," said Payton, who lamented the early miscues and the late ones. "Like the Chicago Bears game (which ended in part because of a deep pass interference penalty in overtime), here's a lead with three minutes left and we need to make a play above our head on the football. That's everyone. That's not one specific person. We need to hurry the passer. We need to be able to get our hands on the football. Those are the things that we weren't able to do and the result ends up in a loss."
"This is another one you lump into (that group)," Saints linebacker Scott Fujita said. "You're proud of the fight. But again, to come up short, it's tough."
"This definitely isn't an average football team," Moore said. "But we've had too many games get away from us in the last seconds."
"You have to win the games you're supposed to win," linebacker Scott Shanle said. "We've had too many games like that this year. Wins are too hard to come by to let games like that get away.
"(But) that's just the way the season has gone."
"(An 8-8 record) is average," running back Deuce McAllister said. "And we're better than average."
"The inability to sustain game in and game out," linebacker Scott Fujita called it. "(.500) is average. We've shown flashes of being better than average. Other times, we don't."
"The good news was that we kept fighting," Coach Sean Payton said. "The momentum swung in the early part of the fourth quarter."
"Obviously, it was big," said Delhomme, who took a hit just as he released the ball. "I can't wait to see it. That's him. He makes big plays. We may be a little unorthodox in the way we do things, but we work well together, and we're going to try and keep going."
"It was a scramble drill, and I just scrambled," said Smith, who finished with five catches for a game-high 134 yards. "I was deep. I saw Jake kind of looking my way, and I took off and hoped he saw me. He saw me and threw the ball deep.
"My job is to catch the ball."
"He had been woofin' and yappin' at me the whole game, telling me I was washed up and stuff like that, trying to get in my head,"
"Jason David thinks he's a shutdown corner. He's no shutdown corner; maybe in the 'popcorn' league, but not in the NFL."
-Steve Smith, on Jason David and speaking on behalf of Saints fans everywhere.
"I'd love for this to have been a boring game," Delhomme said. "But what did they have to lose? It's not like we were playing a team that can't score. We were playing a team that can light it up and light it up quickly. When No. 9 (Brees) was sitting down on the sidelines, that's when I felt comfortable."
Head Coach John Fox
On the emotions of the fourth quarter: First of all, Drew Brees is a great player. You don't have the number-one offense - scoring and yardage and all the things they've done. I thought we had them kind of off-balance early. They caught on. We played without two starters at defensive tackle today. Hats off to those young guys that stepped in there; I thought they did a terrific job. The same thing with our offensive line; we got banged around. I thought we were cruising along pretty good. We had some injuries on the offensive line. I thought the coaching staff did an excellent job and the players did an excellent job adjusting and played well enough for us to get a "W."
On the Panthers running game: Those guys (DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart) are terrific backs. We are blessed to have them. Both of them had outstanding days. At the conclusion of a hard-fought season, I didn't care how we won. We won and we're champs and we got the second seed and we got a first-round bye.
On the game plan: I think this staff has worked outstanding. They've worked very hard. As we talked to our team early, we're all in this together - from the head coach to the trainers, ball boys, even you guys in the (radio) booth. It's a marathon. A lot of things happen. You have ups and downs. We stayed on track and now we've won the division. We'll see what we do in this second season.
On the game-winning drive: Those guys have done it all season. I go back to Green Bay. Down the stretch in the second half of this season, big players have got to step up and make big plays. Without them doing that, we're not sitting here having this conversation. That was another great example. That stadium got very loud when they went up. Even as they started their charge back, you could feel momentum shifting. We had some guys go down and we had to adjust. For that first play to start off like that and Jake bounce back, I didn't even know if he was (going to be able to stay in the game.) We were getting our second quarterback (Josh McCown) ready. But he bounced back. To come through and make that play and see Steve (Smith) do what he's been doing for a long time here and make that great play, it's a tribute to those guys in that locker room.
On the importance of earning a first-round bye: We're not going to go on vacation by any stretch but we will take some time off. We'll have a victory Monday tomorrow. I'll figure out kind of what our schedule will be. Again, we're not too far in advance not knowing where the thing (next opponent) is going to end up. But we'll have a chance to get healthy, that's for sure, and rested.
Safety Chris Harris
On winning the NFC South: It's been tough; this whole season has been tough. Our division is playing extremely well. I'm just glad we got the win and we didn't let history repeat itself as far as the loser of the division (from the previous season) winning (the next season), because that possibly could have happened.
On his interception: I was about to stay on the guy that I bumped as he was coming across but I was just reading his eyes because I was the underneath defender. So I was just reading him and I saw him getting ready to go that way so I just took off.
On the team's confidence going into the playoffs: Confidence will be sky high. A win's a win, and we take them. We know we can beat people by a lot. We know we can beat people by a little. We know we can beat people by coming back at the end of the game. We've won in every way imaginable this year, so we feel very confident going into the playoffs.
On what the Saints did differently in the fourth quarter when they came back: They're good. We were able to hold them down in the first half pretty much the way we anticipated, the way we wanted to. But the second half they started no-huddling us and getting ball out quick and doing some things of that nature and they were able to get back in the ball game.
Kicker John Kasay
On how he feels: I'm exhausted. I'm emotionally spent. God was very good to us and very good to me today. I give Him all the glory. This is more than one old man can take.
On how his pre-routine helps in situations like this: I knew what I did as soon as I missed that one. To have to come back and kick another one, you just try to do the little things that give you success. Being able to prepare in practice all the time, Jason Baker doing a great job holding, Jason Kyle snapping and those guys blocking for me, just giving us a chance. It was nice to be able to make one at the end.
On how he keeps himself strong mentally and from thinking about what's at stake during a big kick: It's a lot of prayer, and that's the honest truth. This is bigger than me. I can't do this without God's grace and strength. You just aim at a spot, and (pray), "Lord, just please let this one go in."
On his relationship with wide receiver Steve Smith: Steve has been a real inspiration, I think, for a lot of people. He's a good man and he's got a good heart. It's fun to be able to win these. This is a special day.
On winning the NFC South and earning a first-round bye: The NFC South is a tough division, and it was a battle all through the entire year. You had to go to the last play of the last game of the season for it to be decided. That's how close this division is. It's a huge privilege to be able to represent the NFC South. Hopefully, we can enjoy this one and get ready for what's going to happen in two weeks.
"Nervous? I knew it was going to happen," he said. "I knew it was going to happen here last year. I knew last week it was going to happen. You just know. You get these feelings."
"You dubbed us the Cardiac Cats a few years ago, right?" Kasay said. "Well, I think you can pull out the hats and the T-shirts and get ready for the ride."
"He did to us what he does to everybody – he throws the ball up and down the field," said Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers, who sacked Brees once, bringing his career-high total to 14.5. "He’s just one of those guys. You never feel comfortable with a lead with him, because of his quick-strike capabilities and the explosiveness of the offense."
"We had our fingers crossed," Gross said. "We’ve seen Jake do that a million times and we have all the faith in the world in (kicker) John Kasay, but that’s a long way to go."
"I’m very confident in John, but I was on that field in the third and fourth quarter (last week against the Giants)," said Delhomme. "That wind was blowing the exact same way (left) it pushed the football, so I knew it was going to be an extremely difficult kick.
"But this one, with no elements, I was just waiting on it to go through."
"He’s my boy," Smith said of Kasay. "If I’m going into a back alley, I’ll take John."
"When you have a player like Brees, you know he can chuck it. They have the firepower and the weapons to make it a game. So I never thought they were out of it."
"We knew they weren’t going to fold their tent and that we had to come out and keep fighting," Williams said. "John Kasay is the Ice Man and did a great job for us tonight."
"Hats off to New Orleans, because they hung in there and kept it interesting," Fox said. "We did our part to make it interesting, but at the end of the day these games are all hard, and today is no exception."
The Grades are In - Charlotte Observer
Grading the Saints - Times-Pic
Panthers-Saints Postgame Notes - Panthers.com
Here are your audio clips from WWL's Sports Talk. They are Sean Payton, Marques Colston, Jonathan Vilma, Hokie Gajan and Bobby Hebert.