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Panthers Defense Shines In Comeback Victory Over Saints

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CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 22: Greg Hardy #76 of the Carolina Panthers goes after Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints during their game at Bank against the Carolina Panthers of America Stadium on December 22, 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Greg Hardy #76 of the Carolina Panthers goes after Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints (Credit, Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

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By Danny Cox

All that the Carolina Panthers needed was one more victory to get into the playoffs, but it was going to mean defeating the New Orleans Saints. There were some big time calls, some ugly plays, a lot of rain, but enough left for one more drive in the fourth quarter that got the Panthers into the postseason and sent the Saints home a soggy mess.

Coaching Grade: C+

Riverboat Ron Rivera appeared to have a good game plan early on, but the Saints were playing well enough to keep things tight. Once the rain poured down in the third quarter, play-calling seemed to get very protective throughout almost the entire second half. There was enough gumption and guts left though as the last drive was called perfectly for the Panthers.

Offense Grade: C+

Except for the final drive, there really wasn’t a lot to be excited about from the Panthers. Well, DeAngelo Williams had that breakaway run for the first touchdown of the day, but there was little else from the running game as a whole. Cam Newton threw an early interception and couldn’t do much from that point on, even though the opening drive was led nicely.

Still, that final drive made up for it all and it was beautifully executed by Newton as he found Ted Ginn Jr. and then Domenik Hixon for the 14-yard touchdown and the ultimate win.

Defense Grade: A

Carolina’s defense is truly what won this game for the Panthers. Yes, there were a few lapses here and there, but they held up at times when it mattered most. Any day that Drew Brees is intercepted twice and sacked six times chalks up to a really good game for any defense.

Even though the Panthers had given up a good bit of yardage to running back Mark Ingram all game, the defense held their own on the Saints final drive to force the punt, which led to the game-winning touchdown.

It was linebacker Luke Kuechly who had one of the games of the year though as he racked up a whopping 24 tackles and one interception. Thomas Davis joined in with an interception of his own and 14 more tackles.

Special Teams Grade: B

Ted Ginn Jr. didn’t have a lot of chances to make any returns in either the kickoff or punt scenarios. He did what he could on a soggy field though.

Graham Gano only attempted one field goal and he connected on it.

It was Brad Nortman who was one of Carolina’s stars for the day on special teams. Nortman punted eight times for an over 50-yard average with a long of 60 yards and had two downed inside the Saints five-yard line.

Grade: B

For more Carolina Panthers news and updates, visit Carolina Panthers Central.

Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. Danny is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

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