Sunday Night Football was touted as one of the top games in Week 14 and so far it's been a one-sided affair. Carolina got the early lead, but it's been all New Orleans in the second quarter, with the Saints scoring three straight touchdowns and carrying a 21-6 lead into the half.
The Panthers struck first on back-to-back drives that ended in field goals. Quarterback Cam Newton avoided the pass rush, but Carolina was unable to convert long drives into meaningful points, and entered the second quarter with the score 6-0.
Drew Brees wasted no time in the second. After being shut out early he orchestrated an 80-yard drive that took just over three minutes, finding Marques Colston on a short pass for a touchdown. The breakout was on. It felt like New Orleans needed to believe it could strike against a talented Panthers defense, following up with another drive and yet another short pass to Colston in the end zone.
The key problem for Carolina in the first half was the team's secondary. Woefully overmatched by a talented group of Saints receivers, they weren't helped up front by a vaunted pass rush that failed to sack Brees in the first half. Couple that with a struggling offensive line that failed to protect Newton and it was a recipe for a big half by the Saints.
Carolina is under pressure following the break to adjust and bounce back, while New Orleans simply needs to keep it up. A shootout isn't something the Panthers can hang in, especially without their pass rush stepping up. There's a feeling this could get out of hand quickly.