Saints vs. Panthers score, takeaways: New Orleans holds Bryce Young in check, hangs on for division win
The defense dominated for the second straight week
The New Orleans Saints moved to 2-0 on Monday night, as they defeated the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, 20-17. As the final score indicates, this matchup did not feature two high-flying offenses that moved the ball at will. Both defenses controlled the tempo, but ultimately, the better unit won out.
No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young struggled in his first home game and heard it at times from Panthers fans. He completed 22 of 33 passes for 153 yards and one touchdown, and was sacked four times. The Alabama product did lead an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter, converting a two-point conversion to cut the deficit to three points, but Carolina was unable to recover the ensuing onside kick. Adam Thielen was Young's favorite target, as the former Viking caught seven passes for 54 yards and one touchdown.
It wasn't the cleanest game for Derek Carr and Co., but a win is a win. Carr completed 21 of 36 passes for 228 yards and one interception, while Chris Olave caught six passes for a game-high 86 yards. Running back Jamaal Williams left the game in the first half with a hamstring injury, and in stepped Tony Jones Jr., who rushed 12 times for 34 yards and two second-half touchdowns. Taysom Hill was also effective on the ground, rushing nine times for 75 yards.
The Saints offense found their groove late in the second half, as Carr engineered two touchdown drives of 70-plus yards that ultimately won them the game. Let's take a look at what happened in this matchup.
Why the Saints won
The Saints defense was incredible all night long, as they allowed 239 yards of total offense while Young threw for just 153 yards. The rookie signal-caller had pressure on him all game, and it wasn't until there were under two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter that Carolina scored a touchdown. In fact, that touchdown was the first touchdown the Saints defense has allowed all year.
Carr has said that this defense was a reason he wanted to come to New Orleans. The offense hasn't exactly clicked just yet, but once it does, the Saints could show why they were the preseason favorites in the NFC South.
Why the Panthers lost
Carolina had no offense. Young's unit had just 164 yards of total offense before the final touchdown drive where New Orleans was more lax on defense, and the Panthers converted just 4 of 14 third downs. Young is a rookie who just played his second-ever NFL game, but fans were hoping to see some glimpses of why their front office traded so much to move up to No. 1 overall to select him over other quarterbacks such as C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson. Young did have a nice throw to fellow rookie Jonathan Mingo late in the fourth quarter, and he followed that up with a short touchdown pass -- plus the two-point conversion -- to Thielen, but that was about it from him as a passer.
Panthers head coach Frank Reich said after the game that he's "seen this before" and that the Panthers are not that far away, per team writer Augusta Stone. We'll see how much they can improve as the year goes on.
With a four-point lead late in the fourth quarter, the Saints knew they could ice the game with another score. Carr led the offense 79 yards down the field on six plays -- which included a 45-yard grab from Rashid Shaheed -- and Jones punched in his second touchdown of the game four plays later. With a 20-9 lead, the game felt over. Although Carolina did make some bettors mad with a late-game cover/late-game push.
Play of the game
After the Panthers tied the game with a 54-yard field goal, New Orleans needed a spark. That spark came in the form of a 42-yard catch from the talented Olave, which was absolutely the play of the game.
Shaq Thompson injury
The Panthers have already had to deal with several notable injuries early in the year, and now, the team is holding their breath for star linebacker Shaq Thompson.
Thompson was Per NFL Media, the Panthers believe Thompson suffered a fractured fibula, but more tests are needed to confirm.in the first half after being rolled up on from behind. He was originally listed as doubtful to return with a shin injury, but then was ruled out with an ankle injury.
Carolina's defense fought valiantly Monday night, but not having Thompson for a considerable amount of time will hurt.
The Panthers travel to Seattle to take on the 1-1 Seahawks next Sunday, while the Saints travel to Green Bay to play Jordan Love and the Packers.
Bryce Young finds Adam Thielen for a three-yard touchdown, and goes right back to Thielen for the successful two-point conversion.
20-17 Saints with 1:16 remaining in the game.
And all of a sudden, Carolina is at New Orleans' three-yard line. A 22-yard pass to Jonathan Mingo got the Panthers down deep into enemy territory, and now, the Saints could be about to give up their first TD of the entire SEASON.