The Carolina Panthers returned to Bank of America Stadium on Sunday seeking their first win at home since September 19th of last year and attempting to end their nine-game losing streak. Behind a defense that forced three huge turnovers and a huge play from a receiver that was activated for the first time this season on Sunday, the Panthers were able to do just that and cool down the angst of the fanbase for at least a few days.
After a slow start on the first couple of offensive drives, the Panthers would get on the board first on a 44-yard scoop and score from Marquise Haynes Sr. off the fumble by Alvin Kamara. The turnover was the first created by the Panthers since Week 15 of last season against the Bills and the first fumble return for a touchdown since December 7th of 2020. The Panthers offense failed to find the endzone in the first half, but two ten-play drives led to two long Eddy Pineiro field goals that gave the team a 13-0 lead at halftime, the biggest lead that they had had in a game since last season’s Week 10 game in Arizona. The Saints had a chance to cut into that lead right before halftime thanks to a 49-yard completion from Jameis Winston to Chris Olave. The Panthers’ defense would bow up in the red zone, though, holding the Saints to a 30-yard field goal attempt, which was blocked by Henry Anderson.
The Saints came out of the half with a 14-play, 62-yard drive that still didn’t allow them to get on the board thanks to a 48-yard miss from Will Lutz. The Panthers’ offense had a chance following the miss to lengthen the lead in each of the next two drives but failed to do so, allowing the Saints to cut it to a one-possession game with a 5-yard touchdown run by Mark Ingram. The offense would respond almost immediately, though, thanks to preseason acquisition Laviska Shenault, who was active for the first time on Sunday. He would take the Baker Mayfield screen pass 67 yards to the house to extend the Panthers’ lead back to two possessions, a lead that was later boosted by Pinerio’s third field goal of the day, this time from 34 yards out. The Saints would make things interesting with 2:22 remaining courtesy of Marquez Callaway. The Panthers would go three and out following the onside kick recovery giving New Orleans one last shot with 22 seconds left, but Jaycee Horn would come away with the team’s third forced turnover of the day on a jump ball interception that sealed the team’s first home victory in over a full year.
The three turnovers forced were the most for the team since their win over Washington in Week 16 of the 2020 season and were a big boost for a defense that allowed 426 yards of total offense. After not forcing any turnovers for more than 342 minutes of game time, this defense was able to boost an offense that continued to struggle moving the football consistently once again.
Laviska Shenault Jr.’s activation will be one that will be talked about all week after producing the biggest play of the day that was ultimately the difference maker in this one. With the struggles that the rest of the receiving corps has had at creating separation, it only seems right that there will be a push for a more significant role for him moving forward.
With the win, the Panthers advance to 1-2 on the season and pick up an important divisional win in the process. The Saints, meanwhile, fall to 1-2, as well, thanks to their third consecutive loss to their division rival. The Panthers will be right back in Bank of America Stadium next Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, a team they have won six straight matchups against.