Carolina came back with a lot of offense - especially a resurgent rushing offense - to beat the Saints 35-27.
I was skeptical Carolina had a chance in this one - and skeptical that they'd have much success with their blitz packages against an excellent QB in Brees that diagnoses the blitz so well. And yet, Carolina got in Brees' face a lot more than the one sack recorded feels - Charles Johnson had the bigtime pressure to force an early INT-TD for Charles Godfrey, and a later forced fumble that somehow isn't recorded as a sack, I guess because Brees picked the ball back up; he also had another hit on Brees. Greg Hardy had a bigtime hit that wounded Brees and forced a major grounding penalty. Thomas Keiser and Dwan Edwards shared the one scored sack.
And pressure forced the last defensive play, a game-sealing INT for Jon Beason.
Carolina did give up some big plays, however - a 48 yard run for Pierre Thomas that saw him squirt out of a pile and make some Panthers miss; they let Darren Sproles, taking double duty with Devery Henderson out, get 13 receptions for 128 yards (5 first drive alone). Jeremy Graham got his (7 for 71, a score) but Josh Norman did a good job with Marques Colston (nothing in the first 3 quarters, finishing for 3/49).
Carolina got its backs involved, remembering that they had them; Jonathan Stewart scored from 20 yards in on a pretty screen (full house and with Kealoha Pilares looking to take a spread sweep, plus the fake handoff to Mike Tolbert, Stewart snuck toward the sideline for the pass); Deangelo Williams scored from five out on an option draw; Mike Tolbert got his from shutgun at the 2; Cam Newton got his last, from a QB draw. Newton led the team with 70 yards; they finished as a group with 219. Brandon LaFell, having a coming out day as a receiver, got his carry with 25 yards on a reverse, too.
With a lead much of the game, and a potent rush O, you'd figure Carolina didn't have much going on passing: Newton was 14/20 for 253 yards, a score (Stewart's screen); Steve Smith had 3/104 and Brandon LaFell was massive with 6/90.
More analysis later.