Rapid Reactions: Panthers fall short in New Orleans

Rapid Reactions: Panthers fall short in New Orleans

Referees flagged Newton for intentional grounding, a controversial call the Saints obviously believed was correct. Meanwhile, quarterback Drew Brees is hitting on 72.0 percent of his passes.

Only minutes later, Newton was crushed by Saints lineman David Onyemata and after slowly getting to his feet, started towards the sideline only to go back down on the ground. But it was far from over.

The former MVP also tallied his second-longest touchdown pass of his career in the postseason on Sunday, a 55-yard hookup with rookie running back Christian McCaffrey.

The Saints answered a stirring pregame at the dome by piling up 244 yards of offense to 190 at the half for a 21-9 halftime lead.

Brees went 13 of 18 for 230 yards and two touchdowns in the half, including an 80-yard pass to Ted Ginn for the first points of the game late in the first quarter.

Kaelin Clay dropped a sure touchdown pass from Newton on the ensuing third-down play, and Graham Gano missed a 25-yard field goal on fourth down. Newton completed consecutive passes for 19, 3 and 21 yards, and a defensive-holding penalty had Carolina at the New Orleans 21-yard line with 46 seconds to play.

After the Saints swept the regular-season series with the Panthers, they completed the hat trick on Sunday with a 31-26 victory in an NFC wild-card game at the Superdome.

The mistakes Carolina made on the all-too-familiar Ginn play were avoidable, and ones that defensive coordinator Steve Wilks has been warning, preaching and coaching against since the receiver had a free release on a 40-yard touchdown in Week 3.

A dozen or so members of the Super Bowl XXIV champion New Orleans Saints were introduced before the game stayed on the sidelines to watch. It didn't happen thanks to the Saints defense.

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"The bat will live on forever", Bush said in an interview over the dome's loudspeakers before Sunday's kickoff.

Numerous legends from that team, which delivered the city its only Super Bowl trophy, were in the Dome again Sunday.

And for the third time this season, the Carolina Panthers couldn't beat dem either.

Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles was more effective as a runner than passer, finishing with 89 yards on nine carries as the Jags won their first playoff game since 2007.

Less than the month before Sunday's game, Richardson said on the Panthers' website that he plans to sell the team following the National Football League season. "They stopped us on the first two drives, and then, for us to come up with that big play, I think it blew the whole thing wide open". Carolina, meanwhile, drove 63 yards in 15 plays to the Saints' 7-yard line, but New Orleans held. Gano had made 29-of-30 kicks before that miss, and his only failed attempt had come from 55 yards out. You watch that closely on film, Drew kind of shuffled quickly to his right and found Ginn behind the coverage.

Carolina traveled 63 yards using 13 plays that got the team down to New Orleans' 7-yard line, but the Panthers were unable to cash in.

"It's hard to beat a team three times in a season", has been a popular refrain since the Saints were paired with the Panthers.

Here are five takeaways from the Panthers' 31-26 loss to the Saints.

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