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Sam Darnold, stingy defense leads Carolina Panthers over New Orleans Saints

Sam Darnold threw two touchdown passes and the Carolina Panthers rode a solid first half to a 26-7 victory against the visiting New Orleans Saints on Sunday afternoon in Charlotte, N.C.

Carolina’s defense was stingy, so the team’s 17-0 halftime lead allowed the Panthers (2-0) to win at home for the second week in a row.

The Saints (1-1) managed only 128 yards of total offense on a day that several members of the coaching staff were absent due to COVID-19 protocols.

Jameis Winston of the Saints was limited to 111 yards on 11-of-22 passing with two interceptions after tossing five touchdown passes a week earlier in a rout of the Green Bay Packers.

The Saints didn’t get on the board until Winston’s 8-yard scramble on the second snap of the fourth quarter. That came after Darnold’s fumble gave New Orleans the ball at the Carolina 18.

On their next possession, the Saints failed to pick up a first down. The Panthers sealed it on Christian McCaffrey’s 11-yard touchdown run with 5:53 to play and later added Zane Gonzalez’s 42-yard field goal.

Darnold completed 26 of 38 passes for 305 yards with one interception as Carolina won for only the second time in the last 10 meetings with the Saints.

The Panthers struck on their opening possession with Darnold connecting with Brandon Zylstra on a 20-yard TD.

Gonzalez, in his first game with Carolina, made it 10-0 with a 20-yard field goal.

Then with 1:55 left in the half, DJ Moore made a 2-yard TD catch from Darnold to stretch the lead.

The Saints had only 65 yards of total offense in the first half, with 31 coming on their last possession before the break. That drive ended when Winston was picked off by Juston Burris.

Even a blocked field goal that gave the Saints possession in Carolina territory in the third quarter didn’t help matters. They turned the ball back over on downs after losing 2 yards on that possession.

McCaffrey finished with 72 rushing yards and 65 receiving yards. Moore posted a game-high 79 receiving yards.

–Field Level Media