When Brees came out to seal the deal in victory formation at midfield, the Saints pocketed their first post-season conquest since the wildcard round of the 2013 season when they upended the Philadelphia Eagles 26-24 for the first road playoff win in franchise history.
In the first half he led New Orleans to scores on three straight drives, throwing a lovely 80-yard bomb to Ted Ginn for the first score.
Saints: Starting left guard Andrus Peat was carted off the field with a left shin injury. He had to be carted off with his left leg immobilized.
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The Saints and Vikings play at 3:40pm next Sunday for a trip to the NFC Championship against the victor of the Falcons - Eagles game. On the third, Brees made up for lost time when he found Ted Ginn Jr. for an 80-yard touchdown.
New Orleans' defense was the difference in the game, forcing Carolina to settle for field goal attempts instead of getting into the end zone for touchdowns for the first three quarters. He passed for far fewer yards than has been his New Orleans norm. I like what we were doing down the stretch and I thought we had a chance to score on that last drive. But the Saints won the most important game between the teams on January 24, 2010, at the Superdome and two weeks later beat Indianapolis 31-17 in Super Bowl XLIV. Olsen got the payoff with a 14-yard slant, easily beating safety Rafael Bush to the inside, and Carolina had cut the deficit to 24-19 with 12:47 left.
Shortly after, Brees threw a 46-yard completion to Michael Thomas for a first-and-goal at the 5. However, the Panthers suffered two losses against the Saints this season, so New Orleans decisively took the tie breaker.
The Saints were improved this season in large part because Brees had so much help. Despite having a first down on the Saints' 26-yard line, trailing 31-26 with 58 seconds left, the Panthers couldn't get into the end zone.
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Thomas caught eight passes for 131 yards on a day when the Saints needed the passing game to compensate for a ground game that struggled to get going.
"I'm glad he intercepted it", said Brees.
Jordan, meanwhile, topped off his day with a monster bull rush that forced an intentional-grounding penalty by Cam Newton to stifle a heart-stopping last-minute rally. The wideouts accounted for only 39 percent of Newton's yards, not near enough to make a dent in the game. The rookie is a dual threat, with over 1500 combined rushing and receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. Newton returned to the game and threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to running back Christian McCaffrey.
However, the decision almost led to the end of the Saints' season.
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For the Panthers-who are seven-point underdogs-to pull off the upset, they'll need to have success in the running game.