Saints fall to 0-3 with 27-22 loss

Published: Sep. 27, 2015 at 7:20 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 27, 2015 at 7:28 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Cam Newton totaled 348 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Panthers to a 27-22 victory over the Saints, spoiling a great effort from backup turned starting quarterback Luke McCown.

With Drew Brees sidelined with a shoulder injury, McCown made his first start with New Orleans and came out on fire, leading the Saints to a 10-0 lead. McCown finished the game 31-38 for 310 yards and rallied the Saints late before throwing a critical interception in the endzone.

Newton and tight end Greg Olsen led the Panthers' offensive attack. Newton threw for 315 yards and two touchdowns, both going to Olsen, who finished with eight catches and 134 yards. The second strike put Carolina up 17-16.

Saints tight end Ben Watson fumbled after a reception in the third quarter. Carolina took advantage of the turnover by adding a 47-yard Graham Gano field goal to extend its lead to 20-16. Newton's third touchdown on the day put Carolina up 27-16.

New Orleans rallied late with McCown leading the Saints on an 80-yard scoring drive, capped off with a Khiry Robinson two-yard touchdown run. The Saints were unable to convert the two-point conversion, keeping the game at 27-22.

On their final two possessions, McCown was intercepted on a great individual effort from Panthers cornerback Josh Norman, before time expired with the Saints within distance for a Hail Mary.

To start the game, McCown went 5-5 for 38 yards before throwing his first incompletion. The Saints gained 67 yards on the game's opening drive, and Zach Hocker kicked a 30-yard field goal for the first points of the day. McCown was 6-7 on the drive for 43 yards.

In the first quarter, McCown was 13-14 for 95 yards. He hit 14 of his first 15 passes overall for 100 yards. Mark Ingram capped off a 94-yard drive with a five-yard rushing touchdown to give the Saints a 10-0 lead.

Defensively, the Saints forced a punt on their first series, but Carolina drove 80 yards on its second possession with Cam Newton finding Greg Olsen on an 11-yard scoring strike to make it a 10-7 game.

McCown continued his sharp play with another solid throw before the half, finding Ben Watson on a 3rd-and-long, but the Saints came up just short of the first down and punted the football back to Carolina. McCown was 16-17 for 124 yards in the half, connecting with nine different receivers.

Before the end of the first half, Carolina mounted another scoring drive. Newton and Olsen combined on a 52-yard pickup in which Brandon Browner was beaten badly by Olsen. The Panthers settled for a 20-yard FG to tie the game at 10-10.

Marcus Murphy returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter to give New Orleans a 16-10 lead. It was the first punt return for a score since Darren Sproles in 2011.

Hau'Oli Kikaha tallied a sack for the Saints. Ramon Humber and Kenny Vaccaro led the defense with nine tackles each.

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