Saints running back Tony Jones Jr had two touchdowns in the win.The New Orleans Saints needed a game-breaking play to propel the offense as the clock ticked down and they got it in the form of a 42-yard pass from Derek Carr to Chris Olave in the third quarter.
Olave tipped the ball to himself as he fell to the ground and kept New Orleans' drive alive. Seven plays later, Tony Jones Jr. ran the ball for a touchdown and the Saints took the lead 13-6. Jones scored again in the fourth quarter to put the final nail in the Panthers' coffin.
New Orleans won the game 20-17.
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While the offense finally got going in the second half with Carr's passing to Olave and Jones finishing drives at the goal line, it was the Saints' defense that made an imprint on Panthers rookie Bryce Young.
Young threw a late touchdown pass to Adam Thielen to make the Saints sweat but New Orleans had the rookie quarterback's number for most of the game. Young was sacked four times and lost a fumble. He was 23-for-33 with 153 passing yards.
Demario Davis led the fray with seven tackles for the Saints, including a sack. Pete Werner had seven tackles as well.
Carr finished 21-of-36 with 228 yards. He had an interception and was sacked four times. Olave led the team with six catches for 86 yards. Rashid Shaheed had four catches for 63 yards.
New Orleans moved to 2-0 on the season as they defeated the Tennessee Titans in Week 1. Carolina fell to 0-2 after losing to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1.
The Saints get a huge edge in the division with the win as the NFC South is expected to be as tight as ever as the season wears on.
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Saints' defense shuts down Panthers as Tony Jones Jr. scores twice in close win
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Tony Jones Jr. ran for two touchdowns, rookie Blake Grupe kicked two field goals and the New Orleans Saints beat the Carolina Panthers 20-17 on Monday night, improving to 2-0 for the first time since 2013.
Jones replaced the injured Jamaal Williams late in the first half and ran for 34 yards on 12 carries.
The Saints' defense did the rest, holding Panthers rookie Bryce Young to 153 yards passing in his home debut.
New Orleans limited Carolina (0-2) to 239 yards and sacked Young, the top overall pick in the draft, four times.
The Saints nearly made it two full games without allowing a touchdown before giving up a 3-yard scoring toss from Young to Adam Thielen with 1:16 left in the game.
Young's 2-point conversion pass to Thielen got the Panthers within three, but the Saints recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.
Derek Carr, who threw for 305 yards in the Saints' Week 1 win over Tennessee, struggled early.
He had a badly underthrown interception into triple coverage and missed several other open receivers as the Saints limped into the locker room at halftime with a 6-3 lead.
But Carr improved in the second half.
He found Chris Olave, who made a diving one-handed grab along the left sideline late in the third quarter for a 42-yard gain.
That set up Jones' 2-yard touchdown run to give the Saints a 13-6 lead.
Olave had another short grab leading to Jones' second TD with about three minutes to play.
Carr finished with 228 yards passing and the one pick.
The Saints pulled even with unbeaten Atlanta and Tampa Bay atop the NFC South, while the Panthers fell into an early hole.
Young spent a good portion of the night under pressure as the offensive line struggled. Carolina couldn't get much going in the running game; Miles Sanders was limited to 43 yards rushing.
The Panthers' offensive night was marred by miscues, penalties and mental errors.
In the third quarter, the Panthers brought in Young's backup, Andy Dalton, presumably to run a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-inches.
But before Dalton could take his first snap of the season, guard Cade Mays jumped offside.
Eddy Pineiro bailed out the offense with a 54-yard field goal, one of his three on the night.
The Panthers had a chance to tie the game just before halftime while facing third-and-6 at the Saints 18, but Carl Granderson sacked Young and forced a fumble that Paulson Adaebo recovered.