Brees leads Saints past Panthers in NFC wild card game

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints snuck past the Carolina Panthers 31-26 Sunday, setting up a divisional round matchup with the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium for January 14. But under pressure brought by defensive end Cameron Jordan, Newton was flagged for intentional grounding, leaving Carolina with a third-and-25.

Newton's 56-yard touchdown pass to Christian McCaffrey cut the Saints lead to 31-26 with just over four minutes to play.

Carolina, meanwhile, moved the ball well, but an early touchdown drop and too many drives that led to field goals put the Panthers into a hole they couldn't quite climb out of.

That's right - it's possible for the Vikings to defeat the Saints and Falcons en route to Super Bowl LII, payback from two of the more crushing losses in franchise history - 2010 to the Saints and the NFC Championship game loss to Atlanta in 1999.

Newton was sacked in the fourth quarter and forced from the game after taking a huge hit to the head.

More news: Atlanta Season 2 Release Date Is So Soon It Hurts

Completions to Devin Funchess and Kaelin Clay gave Carolina a first down at the New Orleans 26.

The Panthers got another chance after Adams interception, but once again the Saints' defense held.

Newton missed a play, the Panthers punted, and then Newton returned on the team's next possession.

Drew Brees leaves the field after leading the New Orleans Saints to a 31-26 victory over the Carolina Panthers in Sunday's NFC wild card game.

Gano's 27-yard field goal cut the lead to 7-3 with 14:12 left in the second quarter, but Brees followed with a his touchdown pass to Hill and a 14-3 lead. Carolina came back quickly behind Newton, who took the Panthers to the New Orleans 40 before they settled for a 58-yard field goal by Gano that barely slipped past the left upright as time expired.

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