Saints stifle Bryce Young, Panthers on MNF: New Orleans 2-0 despite slow first-half starts

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The Carolina Panthers were limited to 239 total yards in their Week 2 “Monday Night Football” matchup against the New Orleans Saints, losing 20-17. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Carolina quarterback Bryce Young was 22-of-33 for 153 yards passing in his home debut.
  • New Orleans’ Derek Carr was 21-of-36 for 228 yards passing. The first touchdown of the game — a 2-yard rush by Tony Jones Jr., the first of his career — came with just under three minutes to go in the third quarter after a 10-play, 75-yard Saints drive; Jones rushed for a second touchdown late in the fourth.
  • Carolina’s late fourth-quarter touchdown was the first allowed by New Orleans, which is 2-0 for the first time since 2013, this season. In Week 1, the Saints beat the Tennessee Titans, who kicked five field goals.

The Athletic’s instant analysis:

A second-half offensive team

The Saints offense only comes to life in the second half, apparently. And the game breakers came on deep balls.

In the third quarter, Chris Olave made one of the more memorable catches of the early NFL season. The 2022 first-round pick pulled off a one-handed, juggling grab on a deep ball on third-and-7 for a 42-yard gain from Carr. In the fourth quarter, Carr hit Rashid Shaheed on second-and-11 for a 45-yard deep ball.

The running back Jones ended each of those drives with rushing touchdowns. Jones saw extended time after Jamaal Williams sustained a hamstring injury in the first half.

The Saints waited until the second half in Week 1 to score their lone TD in the win over the Titans.

If New Orleans can figure out how to score TDs in the first half, they’ll be dangerous. — Holder

A 4-quarter Saints defense

Despite a soft moment late in the fourth quarter, the Saints defense has been one of the most dominant units in the NFL through two weeks.

It slowed the Titans to 15 points in Week 1 and the Panthers to 17 points in Week 2. The unit held Ryan Tannehill to a career-low 28.8 passer rating in Week 1. It kept Young in check until the final drive in Week 2.

New Orleans sacked Young four times, including Carl Granderson forcing a sack-fumble with less than two minutes remaining in the first half. Paulson Adebo pounced on the loose ball. Demario Davis added a crucial sack with about six minutes left in the game to keep the Panthers to a field goal.

The Saints limited the Panthers to 239 yards of total offense and a 29 percent third-down rate.

This shouldn’t be a surprise given the way the defense finished last season. — Holder

The NFC South is a real division

The Saints entered the 2023 season as a near-consensus favorite to win the division given the team’s stability on defense and acquisition of Carr. The aesthetics haven’t been super satisfying for Saints fans, particularly on offense. But getting to 2-0 by any means necessary is all that matters for Dennis Allen and Co.

But don’t look now. The NFC South possesses three 2-0 teams following Week 2.

The Atlanta Falcons have used Bijan Robinson and an improved defense to knock off the Panthers and the Green Bay Packers.

And the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, well, they rode the Baker Mayfield comeback train and a pesky defense to topple the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears.

How long will this last? It could come tumbling down in three weeks for all I know. But for now, this has become an intriguing division. — Holder

Panthers offense stuck in neutral

It was another dink-and-dunk slog for the Panthers offense, which settled for three Eddy Pineiro field goals before putting together a 75-yard touchdown drive with the Saints in a prevent defense in the final few minutes. Young, the No. 1 overall pick, completed 22 of 33 passes for 153 yards, with a passer rating of 87.1.

The Panthers completed their first downfield throw of the season when Young found rookie Jonathan Mingo for 22 yards with 1:21 remaining. Young’s other highlight was a 26-yard scramble in the fourth quarter, the Panthers’ longest play of the season. The final drive was encouraging but the Saints’ scheme certainly helped. — Person

Carolina defense takes another hit

The Panthers lost one of their emotional leaders on defense when linebacker Shaq Thompson left with an ankle injury at the end of the first quarter and did not return. Thompson, the Panthers’ longest-tenured position player, was hurt when offensive tackle Trevor Penning fell on the back of his right leg. Nearly every player on the Panthers’ bench came on the field before Thompson was carted to the locker room.

Journeyman Kamu Grugier-Hill replaced Thompson and finished with six tackles and a sack. The Panthers also could bring up veteran linebacker Deion Jones from the practice squad if Thompson is out for a significant length of time. The defense is already missing cornerback Jaycee Horn, who was placed on IR after undergoing a hamstring procedure. — Person

Highlight of the game

Key stat

Monday’s win marked the Saints’ 10th straight game holding their opponent to 20 or fewer points.

Required reading

The Athletic has live coverage of Saints-Panthers on “Monday Night Football.”

(Photo: Bob Donnan / USA Today)

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