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Saints come to life and pick up impressive first victory of the season over Panthers

The Saints defense and offense were firing on all cylinders against the Panthers on Sunday, which helped the team get their first victory of 2017.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints marched in to Charlotte desperately seeking their first victory of the season against the Carolina Panthers in Week 3, and it finally happened. Sean Payton’s team looked strong in all three phases of the game, as they dominated Ron Rivera’s squad for a big NFC South victory.

On the first drive of the game, the Saints had little resistance for the Panthers offensive attack. Cam Newton and company marched down the field on 15 plays, eating a lot of clock in the process, but a big 3rd down sack by Cam Jordan made the Panthers settle for a field goal for an early 3-0 lead.

Drew Brees countered in a big way by leading the Saints on a 13-play, 75-yard drive of their own that heavily featured Michael Thomas. Thomas was targeted five times on the drive, and hauled in all them for 50 yards and the game’s first touchdown from five yards out.

In a characteristic fashion, the Panthers would go on an 8-play, 50-yard drive highlighted by a 31-yard end around to Curtis Samuel, but would settle on their second field goal of the game after Ken Crawley made a good 3rd down play to set up the 48-yard try from Graham Gano.

After the next Saints drive stalled, the Panthers would turn it over, as Newton was picked off by P.J. Williams in the first Saints interception of the season. Williams read the route and jumped it on a spectacular effort. Four plays later, Brees would find Brandon Coleman for an 11-yard touchdown to put the Saints up 14-6.

The Saints had another shot at the end of the half, but some clock mismanagement led to the team settling for a 33-yard Wil Lutz field goal to close out the 2nd Quarter, with Sean Payton’s team leading 17-6.

With their opening possession of the second half, the Saints offense marched 75 yards in just 8 plays that was capped off by a 40-yard touchdown connection between Brees and Ted Ginn Jr. On the drive, a big 3rd down conversion between Brees and Coby Fleener for 21 yards helped tremendously.

The Panthers offense would finally come to life at the end of the 3rd Quarter, after Cam Newton capped off a 5-play, 83-yard drive by running in for a 3-yard score. Christian McCaffrey had a big pass connection from Newton, which looked to have taken him inside the Saints’ 10, but upon further review Kenny Vaccaro grazed him. It didn’t matter, as the Panthers would cut the team’s lead to 24-13.

The Saints managed to answer with a drive of their own, going 44 yards in 7 plays, but had to settle for a 50-yard field goal from Wil Lutz. Still, they added to their lead, going up 27-13. On the ensuing Panthers possession, the Saints would get the ball back after Newton as picked off by Marcus Williams. Kenny Vaccaro made a good play by tipping the ball up in the air to keep the play alive. However, the team couldn’t cash in on the 56-yard Lutz field goal attempt.

It wouldn’t matter, because after just four Panthers plays, Newton would get picked off for the third time, this time by Kenny Vaccaro. Just several players later, the Saints would put an exclamation point on the game with Alvin Kamara taking it in from 25 yards out to put the Saints up 34-13 with less than 5 minutes to go in the game.

The Saints are expected to travel to London on Monday for their Week 4 meeting against the Miami Dolphins, who were essentially manhandled by the New York Jets.