for this game

Panthers rally to hand Saints first loss

Oct 1, 2006 - 8:34 PM CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Ticker) -- Jake Delhomme and the Carolina Panthers responded to some adversity in impressive fashion.

Delhomme found Drew Carter for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter as the Panthers rallied for a 21-18 victory over the New Orleans Saints in an NFC South matchup.

After leading for much of the contest, the Panthers found themselves trailing, 10-7, with 13:33 remaining after Deuce McAllister scored on a three-yard run.

Faced with the prospect of falling three games behind the surprising Saints (3-1) in the division, the Panthers (2-2) showed some resiliency.

"They are going to be around as the season wears on," Panthers coach John Fox said. "They are obviously a good football team.

"We are climbing out of the doldrums after starting 0-2. We had our backs against the wall. The fourth quarter I thought we did some good things offensively both running the ball and off the play-action pass."

Delhomme calmly directed a 12-play, 91-yard drive, capping it with a four-yard touchdown pass to Carter with 7:15 remaining to give the Panthers a 14-10 lead. Delhomme was 6-of-7 for 57 yards on the march.

"We started out the game fast and then we hit a lull," Delhomme said. "I attribute that to the Saints defense. These guys settled in and that's what I'm so proud of."

The Panthers forced a three-and-out on the Saints' ensuing possession, then DeShaun Foster busted off a 43-yard TD run with 1:45 remaining for a 21-10 advantage.

"I thought they made some key plays in the fourth quarter down the stretch that they took advantage of, both on offense and defense," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "I'm disappointed, but yet we've got to move on from there."

Drew Brees threw an 86-yard TD to seventh-round pick Marques Colston with 30 seconds left for the Saints, who were coming off their emotional 23-3 win over Atlanta in their return to the Superdome last Monday night.

Brees completed 28-of-38 passes for 349 yards without a turnover. His favorite target was Colston, who had five catches for 132 yards.

"I think we moved the ball pretty well," Brees said. "But we didn't get a lot of points out of it."

Limited to only John Carney's 31-yard field goal with 4:05 left in the first half, the Saints embarked on a 13-play, 82-yard drive late in the third quarter.

The Saints' best drive of the day was aided by a pair of penalties. Cornerback Ken Lucas was called for illegal contact on 3rd-and-5 and linebacker Thomas Davis was whistled for pass interference on a 4th-and-1 play.

Brees found Heisman Trophy-winning running back Reggie Bush with a 14-yard screen pass to the Carolina 17. Two plays later, McAllister barreled up the middle for a three-yard TD to give the Saints the lead. On McAllister's TD, the Panthers were not set defensively due to a late substitution.

Bush rushed for 22 yards on 11 attempts and had four catches for 48 yards. The second overall pick in April's draft also lost a fumble inside the Carolina 20 in the second quarter.

"I think that today we didn't play up to our full capability," Bush said. "We made some mistakes in a hostile environment. You can't have those and expect to win."

Delhomme highlighted the Panthers' ensuing possession with completions of 16 and 17 yards to Smith, who finished with 10 receptions for 87 yards and a touchdown.

"It was no good, no matter how ugly or pretty it was," Smith said. "Out goal at the beginning of the week was to get back to .500 and we've accomplished that. You are never as good as you think and you are never as bad as you think."

On 2nd-and-goal, Delhomme found Carter in the left corner for a four-yard TD for a 14-10 lead.

Delhomme completed 19-of-29 passes for 169 yards.

Foster, who rushed for 105 yards on 16 attempts, sealed things moments later with his first touchdown of the season.

Delhomme capped an eight-play, 72-yard drive with a nine-yard TD pass to Smith on a slant with 6:19 left in the first quarter. The march featured a 15-yard completion from Delhomme to Keyshawn Johnson on a 3rd-and-10 play to the New Orleans 9.

After Carney's first field goal, he was wide right on a a 43-yard attempt with under 10 seconds left in the half. It was his first miss in 11 attempts this season.

"I think there were some missed opportunities in the first half," Payton said. "Those are things that catch up to you when you get in the second half."

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