Saints march on after 31-26 win over Panthers

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It will be five years to the day Sunday that the New Orleans Saints last hosted a National Football League playoff game and beat Detroit, 45-28. The Saints prevailed, 31-26, and will travel to Minnesota to play the second-seeded Vikings on Sunday (3:40 p.m., FOX).

A pair of handoffs to Kamara had the Saints in the end zone as they took a 31-19 lead with five minutes, eight seconds remaining. Surely there isn't going to be a week's worth of "Bountygate" stories leading up to this matchup. And this weekend, sportsbooks USA players will have to decide who the better team between the Panthers and the Saints is. The Saints had only 41 rushing yards.

Brees couldn't immediately find an open receiver.

After swapping scoreless possessions, Carolina's chances seemed all-but-doomed after a savage sack by defensive tackles Tyler Davison and David Onyemata knocked Newton loopy and out of the game.

Newton eventually got to his feet and started to walk toward the sideline before cameras caught him stumble and lose his footing and head to the turf. Newton found running back Chris McCaffrey on a relatively shallow crossing route and the speedy rookie did the rest, racing 56 yards for a touchdown that pulled the Panthers back within five points with 4:09 to play.

However, Brees had done enough to push the Saints forward.

His touchdown drive in the final minutes of the first half made the score 21-6 and gave the Saints the extra cushion they ended up needing in the fourth quarter. However, he was ruled to still be in the pocket and intentional grounding was called. When asked last week about the possibility of rematch against the Saints, he said, "I'm not anxious about that". "It'd be nice to have an explanation".

What this game will come down to is which star quarterback will play better.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera told reporters that Cam was taken into the medical tent only as a precaution and that team doctors were more focused on Newton's eye.

Bush led the Saints onto the field wearing a No. 91 jersey to honor late New Orleans great Will Smith, who was killed during a road rage incident in 2016.

The Saints lost starting left guard Andrus Peat to injury early in the second quarter. But they gave a spirited, cohesive effort.

The Pro Bowl tight end was about the only offense the Panthers had in New Orleans.

For Saints coach Sean Payton and his players, it's a bit of a stretch to call their return to Minnesota a rematch.

"We've been playing together for a while now, so we kind of know the strengths and the weaknesses of the guys". "Completely different situation now".

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. "We held them in the red zone and we won the game".

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