NEW ORLEANS — On a night when the Saints’ crowd was attempting to set a world record for indoor noise, the Carolina Panthers entered Sunday night hoping to neutralize that with some early scores.
But the Panthers, who came to the Superdome as the fourth-most efficient team inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, went to the red zone twice during the first quarter and came back with just field goals.
One of the best ways to eliminate crowd noise is to score early and often on the home team – but not with field goals. A time-consuming first quarter for the Panthers gave them six points, which quickly was overtaken by a second-quarter touchdown by New Orleans. The Saints would go on to run away with a 31-13 win.
After an opening drive that saw Carolina convert three third downs, the Panthers failed to convert a fourth time when they had the ball at the New Orleans 20. Cam Newton was sacked for a loss of 7 that brought out Graham Gano for his first field goal after a 6-minute, 18-second drive.
Carolina would get another crack in the red zone during the quarter when the Panthers got the ball on the New Orleans 33 after a 32-yard Ted Ginn Jr. punt return and subsequent penalty.
But the drive would stall at the 6, and Gano came back to make the score 6-0 in favor of Carolina.
The Panthers had an 86.8 scoring percentage in the red zone, the fourth-best in the league behind Denver, Dallas and Cincinnati after Week 13. Of their 38 possessions, 24 resulted in touchdowns and nine were field goals.
But the long drives did keep Drew Brees and the Saints off the field for most of the first quarter. The Panthers were No. 1 in the NFL in time of possession coming in, averaging more than 33 minutes per game. The Saints were No. 2.
Carolina had the ball for 11:30 of the first quarter compared with the Saints 3:30.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera had stressed the importance of a fast start where the home crowd is known for its noise. Carolina played the Vikings in a dome during Week 6, and effectively took the crowd out of it early when the Panthers took an early 7-0 lead and eventually won 35-10.
Stewart injured : Jonathan Stewart gave the Panthers a glimmer of hope in the third quarter with consecutive 16-yard gains, but then his night was cut short.
The Panthers running back left the game early in the third quarter with a right knee injury when Keenan Lewis landed a legal hit to Stewart’s lower body on a 16-yard pass.
Stewart jogged gingerly to the sideline where he was examined by trainers. He went to the locker room and came back with his right leg wrapped.
Stewart missed the first eight weeks of the season as he recovered from offseason ankle surgery.
Get loud: The Saints had a representative from Guinness World Records in attendance as the Saints sought to break the record for “loudest crowd roar at an indoor sports arena.”
The current record has stood for only a few weeks, since Sacramento Kings fans pushed the dBA (decibels adjusted) level to 126 during a game against the Detroit Pistons at Sleep Train Arena on Nov. 15.
Newton was expecting the Saints’ fans to bring the noise, even before the Saints’ announcement Sunday of the Guinness attempt.
“It’s a loud atmosphere, to say the least. These fans are not your friends. They talk to you, they say things, the costumes that they wear; it’s rather interesting to see,” Newton told NBC’s ‘Football Night in America.’
“But as a player, you have to block all that out because at the end of the day, it’s all about the 11 on 11 that are playing in between the goal posts.”
Panthers inactives : There were no real surprises on the Panthers’ inactive list. Second-year defensive end Frank Alexander was bumped to make room for Charles Johnson, who missed the past two games with a sprained knee.
Special teams mainstay Jordan Senn also was among the inactives. Senn pulled his hamstring last week against Tampa Bay and was listed as doubtful.
Second-year cornerback Josh Norman was inactive after playing special teams last week against the Bucs. The rest of the Panthers’ inactives were running back Kenjon Barner, injured guard Chris Scott and wide receivers Tavarres King and Marvin McNutt.
• The Panthers wore their white jersey on white pants combination while the Saints wore black jerseys with black pants, their usual home primetime uniform.
• Former Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme was in attendance for the game. Despite living in Louisiana, he only goes to the Superdome once a year for a game – whenever the Panthers are in town.
• The referees picked up yet another flag for pass interference on the Panthers, and this time it didn’t involve Luke Kuechly. Brandon LaFell was tangled up with a Saint on the first drive of the game but the officials decided it was away from the ball.
• Cam Newton made a poor decision when he did not step up in the pocket late in the second quarter but instead sidestepped. He ran into Cam Jordan, who beat right tackle Byron Bell badly on the play, and Jordan sacked Newton on third down near the Panthers’ end zone.
• New Orleans coach Sean Payton curiously did not accept a holding penalty early in the third quarter. The Saints would have had a first-and-5, but Payton elected to stay at second-and-3. The Saints would eventually punt two plays later.
By the numbers
0 Combined turnovers between the teams.
10 Fourth-down conversions for Carolina on 12 tries this year.
2 Games this year in which the Carolina defense has give up more points than the Saints scored in the second quarter (21).
8 Consecutive seasons of at least 4,000 passing yards for Brees, who hit the mark in the third quarter.
• “I’m surprised and I’m disappointed. Not good enough.” – Panthers
coach Ron Rivera