30 - 27 Final
  for this game

Thomas' late score lifts Saints over Panthers

Oct 9, 2011 - 10:35 PM Charlotte, NC (Sports Network) - Pierre Thomas caught the game-winning touchdown with 50 seconds to play as the New Orleans Saints held off Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers for a 30-27 win.

Drew Brees threw for 359 yards, two touchdowns and an interception on 32- for-45 passing while Jimmy Graham had eight catches for 129 yards for the Saints (4-1), who have won their past four games after opening the season with a loss to Green Bay.

"I am proud of the way our guys fought," said Saints head coach Sean Payton. "The momentum swings in the second half and we were battling a lot. It's an important win for us and obviously an exciting one."

Newton threw two touchdowns and ran one in as he finished the game 16-for-31 with 224 yards and an interception for the Panthers (1-4), who have dropped their past two after beating Jacksonville in Week 3.

All four of Carolina's losses this season have come by seven points or less.

"We're doing some really good things here on offense and we get into a rhythm on defense," said Carolina head coach Ron Rivera. "Unfortunately we had a couple of chances on that last drive to stop them and we couldn't. It was a good game by us, we just couldn't come out on top."

After Newton and Greg Olsen got together for a five-yard score to give the Panthers a 27-23 lead with 12:32 to play, the teams exchanged punts.

New Orleans began the game-winning drive at its own 11 and Brees moved the chains on 3rd-and-3 with a 12-yard pass to Graham, who followed with a 14-yard catch. Thomas caught an 18-yard ball to get it to the Carolina 38 and five more plays moved the ball to the Carolina 15.

Brees then hit Marques Colston for a nine-yard pass down to the six and Thomas followed with a catch out to the right and took it into the end zone untouched for a 30-27 lead with 50 seconds left.

Newton was able to get the ball near midfield, but his desperation heave on the final play fell incomplete.

"We just came up on the short-end of the stick again and it's disheartening," said Newton. "But I have confidence in coach and we're going to get this thing turned around."

The first play of the game saw Newton picked off by Patrick Robinson, who took it 25 yards and a face mask penalty on Carolina gave the Saints the ball at the Carolina three.

Three plays later, Brees hit Jed Collins to the left and the fullback took it in from a yard out for a 7-0 lead just over a minute in.

Following a Carolina punt, New Orleans got into the red zone, but the drive stalled at the five-yard line and a 23-yard field goal from John Kasay made it a 10-0 game with 6:15 left in the first.

The Panthers got on the board on their next touch. On 3rd-and-11 at his own 46, Newton lofted the ball down field for Steve Smith, who made the leaping catch near the 30 and took the ball in. The extra point was blocked and it was a 10-6 game with 2:52 left in the first.

In the second, the Saints went on a 14-play drive that started at their own 14 and was capped when Mark Ingram took the ball into the end zone from a yard out for a 17-6 lead with 5 1/2 minutes left in the second.

Carolina, though, responded with the big play to make it a four-point game. On 1st-and-10 at the Carolina 31, Newton used the option and pitched the ball out to the left for DeAngelo Williams, who broke a couple of tackles on his way into the end zone for a 69-yard score and a 17-13 game with 3:47 to play.

That was plenty of time for the Saints to get into scoring position and Kasay kicked a 46-yard field goal as time expired to give the team a 20-13 lead at the break.

Kasay's 37-yard field goal capped a 10-play drive the Saints used to open the second half for a 23-13 lead.

On the following touch, Carolina converted two third downs and later faced a 3rd-and-8 at the New Orleans 21. Newton was able to hit Brandon LaFell with a short pass to the right and he was able to take it down to the one. It was initially ruled a touchdown, but the replay showed that his knee was down before the ball crossed the line. Two plays later, though, Newton took the ball in to make it a 23-20 game with 3:43 left in the third.

The Carolina defense then came up with a big play as Sherrod Martin picked off Brees to give his team the ball back at their own 41.

The team took advantage of the turnover with an 11-play scoring drive that saw the team take a 27-23 lead on a five-yard catch over the middle by Olsen with 12:32 to play.

Game Notes

New Orleans plays at Tampa Bay next Sunday...Carolina is also on the road next Sunday in Atlanta...The Saints have won four of the last five games...Williams finished the game with 115 yards on just nine carries...Smith had three catches for 79 yards...The Saints controlled the ball for 34:40 and totaled 444 yards of offense while Carolina had 381 yards.