CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It took until Week 3, but the Carolina Panthers have their first win of the season.
The Panthers took control of the game early using a strong defense, commendable offense, and undeniable determination to defeat the New Orleans Saints 22-7 at home on Sunday.
Both teams traded punts to open the first three possessions but things changed quickly with five minutes left in the 1st Quarter. Alvin Kamara fumbled and Marquis Haynes Sr. recovered the ball for Carolina and took it back 44 yards for a touchdown.
Both offenses struggled during the first half with only the Panthers adding points. Carolina added two Eddy Piñeiro field goals to go up 13-0 at the half.
The Saints' best chance to score came on an 11-play 70-yard drive in the closing minutes of the 2nd Quarter that took them into the red zone before the Panthers blocked a 30-yard field goal that would have given New Orleans their first points of the game.
The Saints drove back into scoring territory to open the 3rd Quarter but another field goal attempt failed when Will Lutz sailed his kick wide right.
Carolina reached position for another field goal attempt on the ensuing drive but failed to convert on 4th & 4 from the New Orleans 38-yard line.
New Orleans finally scored over two minutes into the 4th Quarter when Mark Ingram carried in a five-yard touchdown on the ground.
But the Panthers closed off any hopes of a comeback when Laviska Shenault Jr. took a Baker Mayfield pass 67 yards for a touchdown.
The Saints tightened the margin late in the game with a touchdown, but the Panthers held on for their first win of the year.
Christian McCaffrey put up another 100+ yard rushing performance, gaining 108 yards on 25 carries as he continues to be the highlight of the team's offense.
Mayfield finished with under 200 yards passing for the second time this season. He finished 12 of 25 for 170 yards and one touchdown.
Defensively, the Panthers looked at their best form of the young season. The team snagged two interceptions from Saints quarterback Jameis Winston, forced the Kamara fumble, and kept the New Orleans offense in check for most of the day.
With the Panthers now 1-2, some of the pressure may be off of head coach Matt Rhule, who came into this game with a nine-game losing streak, but the team will need to keep this level of play going in the following weeks to solidify his standing.
Next week, the Panthers host the Arizona Cardinals (1-1) at Bank of America Stadium.
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