Slow-starting Saints can’t overcome mistakes at Carolina


CHARLOTTE, N.C.  – The New Orleans Saints got a head start on next weekend’s game in London, heading out on a flight over the Atlantic following their 22-14 loss Sunday at Carolina.

It was the first time they’ve started early this season.

Carolina blanked New Orleans (1-2) in the first half and frustrated the Saints throughout. The Jameis Winston-led offense has posted only 10 first-half points in its three games. Their best chance in the first two periods Sunday was a 30-year field goal, blocked by the Panthers.

A bright spot: early in the fourth quarter, New Orleans finally extended its NFL-best streak of consecutive games without being shut out to 324. But the Saints were not able to seriously threaten the Panthers (1-2), who beat New Orleans for only the fourth time in the last 15 tries.

Carolina pushed out to a 13-0 halftime advantage and did not falter. After Will Lutz missed a 48-yard field goal in the third period, New Orleans closed to 13-7 on a 5-yard Mark Ingram TD early in the fourth quarter, cashing in a 10-play, 89-yard drive with 12:31 left.

A half-minute later the Panthers expanded the spread on a 67-yard Laviska Shenault Jr. reception from Baker Mayfield, with two Saints missing tackles to spring Shenault.

A field goal four minutes later padded the spread to 22-7. New Orleans stayed alive with 2:22 remaining when Winston hit Marquez Calloway on a 4-yard toss after completions of 38 and 48 yards on the previous two snaps.

But Carolina chewed up all but the last few seconds and won for the first time in 10 games.

Saints coach Dennis Allen, who turned 50 on Thursday, acknowledged frustration with his team’s performance.

“The turnover (Carolina’s first score, a 44-yard Marques Haynes fumble return) was a big play in the game. Obviously, the two missed field goals were big plays in the game. That is 13 points. We get back into the game and give up the explosive pass, missed tackle and the game was kind of out of hand at that point in time,” said Allen.

“We’re going to have to regroup and we’re going to have to get better,” said the first-year head coach. ”We’re beating ourselves with penalties, and we’re beating ourselves with turnovers.”

Allen declined to criticize Winston or Lutz, saying he had faith in both veterans.

Winston threw for 353 yards on 25 of 41 aim, getting intercepted twice, once on a Hail Mary at the end of the game.

The Saints were flagged seven times for 58 yards and did not force a Panthers’ turnover. New Orleans lost despite outgaining Carolina 426-293.

The Saints absorbed some injuries at the receiver position during the afternoon, and had only two healthy wideouts at the end of the game. That situation will have to be addressed before next Sunday’s contest in London against Minnesota.

File photo by PETER FOREST, Journal Sports