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Saints vs. Panthers final score: Carolina holds on for a 23-20 win despite a New Orleans late-game rally

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The Panthers blew a comfortable lead for the second week in a row, but held on to beat the Saints.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints tried to pull off a late-game rally, but still lost to the Carolina Panthers, 23-20, on Thursday Night Football.

The Saints’ first possession of the night ended in a strip sack on Drew Brees, and the Panthers recovered, giving Carolina the ball within field goal range. It looked as if the game might not go the Panthers’ way, as Carolina couldn’t get into the end zone after running 11 plays and taking 4:47 off the clock to travel 18 yards. The Panthers were forced to settle for a field goal.

Carolina brought consistent pressure on Brees. Brees threw an interception in the first half, and the Panthers’ offense was able to turn its ensuing drive into a touchdown. The Saints were limited to one field goal in the first half, and the Panthers took a 20-3 lead into halftime.

For the second week in a row, the Saints were on the wrong end of a blocked kick. Last week against the Denver Broncos, a blocked Wil Lutz PAT attempt was returned for two points by the Broncos, and Denver beat the Saints 25-23. This week, Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly scooped up the ball and would have had a touchdown if not for a block in the back by his teammate, James Bradberry.

The Panthers were able to turn the blocked kick into seven points, as Cam Newton hit Ted Ginn Jr. in the back of the end zone for the score.

After looking outmatched throughout the first half, the Saints executed a late-game rally, surging in the fourth quarter to draw within three of the Panthers. It didn’t help Carolina that Kuechly was carted off the field to be evaluated for a concussion.

Kuechly wasn’t the only injury that had an effect in the evening. The Panthers also lost center Ryan Kalil, who had just returned to the field after missing two and a half games with a sprained shoulder. Panthers defenders Leonard Johnson and Mario Addison were both injured in the second half also. Addison led the Panthers in sacks against the Saints with two. The Saints lost running back Mark Ingram, who left the game in the third quarter to be evaluated for a concussion.

The Saints got the ball with an opportunity to tie it up with just seconds remaining, but it wasn’t enough time to get into field goal range. The Panthers blew another comfortable lead, but held on for the win.