It was far from pretty, but the victory is more important than style points, especially with the way the New Orleans Saints are positioned.
After squeaking by the host Carolina Panthers 12-9 on Monday Night Football, the Saints (12-2) can clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC by winning one of their last two games.
The Los Angeles Rams (11-3) lost to Philadelphia Eagles (7-7) to fall to No. 2 in the NFC
Alvin Kamara amassed 103 yards from scrimmage and the go-ahead 16-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter with 12:12 remaining.
The ensuing two-point conversation attempt was intercepted by Donte Jackson for the rare pick-two.
However, the stingy Saints defense clamped down to hold the Panthers scoreless the rest of the way. The Saints sacked former NFL MVP Cam Newton four times and forced two turnovers (Eli Apple interception and A.J. Klein fumble recovery).
The Saints held the Panthers (6-8) to 98 rushing yards.
Tommylee Lewis fumbled around the goal line for a touchback with 1:44 remaining. Yet the Panthers couldn’t capitalize as the Saints forced a turnover on downs.
The Saints didn’t lead until the fourth quarter and committed two turnovers. Drew Brees converted 23 of his 35 passes for 203 yards and an interception.
Afterwards, Brees spoke with CST’s Mike Nabors about the hard fought victory against a divisional rival and the importance of securing home field advantage.
“At the end of the day you find ways to win. Guys have got to make plays in the fourth quarter. Defensively we came up with some huge stops in the fourth quarter. Offensively we put together two really nice drives in the fourth quarter,” Brees said. “Despite that you can say it wasn’t pretty, a win is a win. It gets us one step closer to securing the one-seed which would be a huge thing for us.”
Brees and Sean Payton (117 regular season victories) are now the second winningest QB/coach combination in NFL history behind only the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. The dynamic duo surpassed the Miami Dolphins’ Dan Marino and Don Shula.
The Saints can ensure the NFC Playoffs run through the Superdome by defeating the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5-1) on Dec. 23.
For more watch Saints Gameday with Scott Shanle, Mike Nabors and Victor Howell. Check the CST program schedule for more information.