Carolina trailed late into the fourth quarter, until Cam Newton found Domenik Hixon in the end zone with 23 seconds remaining to cap the scoring. The Panthers were able to keep the contest close due in large part to defensive end Greg Hardy and middle linebacker Luke Kuechly.
Hardy dominated left tackle Terron Armstead, who was making his first career NFL start after New Orleans coach Sean Payton benched Charles Brown prior to the game. Hardy amassed three sacks, leading to a physical game for Drew Brees.
Meanwhile, Kuechly set a franchise record with 24 tackles on the day. Over at Cat Scratch Reader, James Dator writes about the mood for Panthers fans after the game:
It's fun to feel like the team nobody wants to see in the playoffs, at least for once. The win has flipped the Panthers playoff hopes, locking up a spot and now potentially finishing as the first seed in the NFC. It's unlikely, but it's possible.
There are no other words for Luke Kuechly. I've used all of them, vocabulary spend. Instead I'll just say "Thank you" and leave it at that.
Over at Canal Street Chronicles, Dave Cariello discussed the atrocious offensive line play that has become a theme:
The offensive line for the Saints is sketchy at best and it's a huge freakin' problem. Not only because Brees can't be taking 6 freakin' sacks a game like he did today but because this offense lives and dies by the play of their front five. The running game, the passing game, it all starts with the offensive line. And as this offense goes, so goes the fate of the Saints. Will the Saints beat the Bucs next week? Depends how the offensive line plays. Will the Saints do well in the playoffs? Depends how the offensive line plays. Will the Saints win the Super Bowl? Depends how the offensive line plays.