Panthers
Saints
31 - 21 Final
  for this game

Delhomme returns, Brees departs early in season finale

Dec 31, 2006 - 11:52 PM NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- Jake Delhomme returned but will not get to play next week. Drew Brees left early since he has a playoff date in two weeks.

Delhomme hit Steve Smith with a pair of touchdown passes and cornerback Chris Gamble returned an interception 18 yards for a score to lead the Carolina Panthers to a 31-21 victory over the New Orleans Saints to complete a sweep of their NFC South rival.

However, Brees departed after directing one touchdown drive for the Saints (10-6), who had already clinched the division title and a first-round playoff bye.

"We were able to win four out of five down the stretch to put ourselves in a position where this game was meaningless in regard to the playoffs," said Brees, who finished the season with a franchise-record 4,418 passing yards.

Saints coach Sean Payton also rested leading rusher Deuce McAllister, wide receiver Joe Horn and Pro Bowl defensive end Will Smith.

"We remained healthy, we got through this game, and I thought our guys battled and played hard," Payton said. "A lot of guys got a lot of repetitions today who maybe haven't played that much this year. We're going to look at the tape and make corrections."

The Panthers (8-8) were officially eliminated from playoff contention when the New York Giants beat Washington on Saturday night.

"We couldn't make the playoffs, but we wanted to finish the season the right way," said Delhomme, who completed 23-of-27 passes for 207 yards. "Personally, this was an important game because I've been out and I wanted to get back on the field and have a strong performance."

Delhomme had missed Carolina's previous three games with a thumb injury. The Panthers lost two of those games and were unable to reach the postseason, losing a head-to-head tiebreaker to the Giants.

Delhomme connected with Smith on a 22-yard touchdown in the first quarter and the two hooked up again on a 15-yard scoring play in the third quarter.

Jamie Martin replaced Brees and threw the pass that was picked off and returned for a score by Gamble with 10:33 left in the third quarter, snapping a 14-14 tie.

Martin was 16-of-24 for 208 yards, including a seven-yard touchdown to running back Jamaal Branch.

Brees completed 3-of-4 passes for 38 yards on the Saints' first drive. Rookie Reggie Bush capped it with a one-yard touchdown run 3:51 into the game.

Delhomme showed no signs of rust, directing a nine-play, 73-yard drive and capping it with a 22-yard touchdown to Smith with 5:53 left in the first quarter.

Martin connected with Devery Henderson on a 65-yard pass before tossing a seven-yard touchdown to Branch with 12:01 remaining in the second quarter.

DeShaun Foster scored on a two-yard run with 1:02 left in the first half, capping a 14-play, 85-yard drive and tying the game, 14-14.

Gamble's interception return put Carolina ahead for good 4:27 into the third quarter.

Delhomme hit Smith with a 15-yard scoring pass with 4:52 left in the third quarter to increase the advantage to 28-14. Smith finished with seven catches for 85 yards.

Fullback Fred McAfee scored on a six-yard run on the last play of the third quarter for the Saints.








  • NFL
    FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    CAROLINA 7 7 14 3 31
    NEW ORLEANS 7 7 7 0 21 FINAL
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: NOR - TD, REGGIE BUSH 1 YD RUN (JOHN CARNEY
    KICK), 3:51. Drive: 8 plays, 65
    yards in 3:51. Key plays: Brees
    25-yard pass to Owens to Carolina
    22. NEW ORLEANS 7-0
    CAR - TD, STEVE SMITH 22 YD

    Dec 31 3:51 PM


  • NFL
    FG CAR
    JOHN KASAY 19 YD
    CAROLINA 31
    NEW ORLEANS 21 9:53 LEFT, 4TH QTR

    Panthers vs. SaintsDec 31 3:24 PM


  • NFL
    TD NOR
    FRED MCAFEE 6 YD RUN
    (JOHN CARNEY KICK)
    CAROLINA 28
    NEW ORLEANS 21 0:00 LEFT, 3RD QTR

    Dec 31 3:22 PM


  • NFL
    TD NOR
    FRED MCAFEE 6 YD RUN
    (JOHN CARNEY KICK)
    CAROLINA 28
    NEW ORLEANS 21 0:00 LEFT, 3RD QTR

    Panthers vs. SaintsDec 31 3:22 PM


  • NFL
    TD CAR
    STEVE SMITH 15 YD PASS FROM JAKE DELHOMME
    (JOHN KASAY KICK)
    CAROLINA 28
    NEW ORLEANS 14 4:52 LEFT, 3RD QTR

    Panthers vs. SaintsDec 31 3:06 PM


  • NFL
    TD CAR
    CHRIS GAMBLE 18 YD INTERCEPTION RETURN
    (JOHN KASAY KICK)
    CAROLINA 21
    NEW ORLEANS 14 10:33 LEFT, 3RD QTR

    Panthers vs. SaintsDec 31 2:44 PM


  • NFL
    HALFTIME 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    CAROLINA 7 7 14
    NEW ORLEANS 7 7 14 HALFTIME
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: NOR - TD, REGGIE BUSH 1 YD RUN (JOHN CARNEY
    KICK), 3:51. Drive: 8 plays, 65
    yards in 3:51. Key plays: Brees
    25-yard pass to Owens to Carolina
    22. NEW ORLEANS 7-0
    CAR - TD, STEVE SMITH 22

    Dec 31 2:21 PM


  • NFL
    TD CAR
    DESHAUN FOSTER 2 YD RUN
    (JOHN KASAY KICK)
    CAROLINA 14
    NEW ORLEANS 14 1:02 LEFT, 2ND QTR

    Panthers vs. SaintsDec 31 2:18 PM


  • NFL
    TD NOR
    JAMAAL BRANCH 7 YD PASS FROM JAMIE MARTIN
    (JOHN CARNEY KICK)
    CAROLINA 7
    NEW ORLEANS 14 12:01 LEFT, 1ST QTR

    Panthers vs. SaintsDec 31 1:53 PM


  • NFL
    CAROLINA 7
    NEW ORLEANS 7 0:00 LEFT, 1ST QTR

    Dec 31 1:38 PM


  • NFL
    TD CAR
    STEVE SMITH 22 YD PASS FROM JAKE DELHOMME
    (JOHN KASAY KICK)
    CAROLINA 7
    NEW ORLEANS 7 5:53 LEFT, 1ST QTR

    Panthers vs. SaintsDec 31 1:23 PM


  • NFL
    TD NOR
    REGGIE BUSH 1 YD RUN
    (JOHN CARNEY KICK)
    CAROLINA 0
    NEW ORLEANS 7 11:09 LEFT, 1ST QTR

    Panthers vs. SaintsDec 31 1:10 PM