(AP) Drew Brees hit Marques Colston with a 6-yard touchdown pass, and the New Orleans Saints led the Carolina Panthers 7-6 early in the second quarter Sunday night.
Graham Gano kicked field goals of 45 and 24 yards as the Panthers took a 6-0 lead through one quarter, which ended with the Saints threatening to score their first points
The Panthers had the ball for 11:30 putting, showing an ability to run their offense in the face of an energized and loud Superdome crowd, revved up for a game that will decide sole possession of first place in the NFC South with three games left.
Carolina drove 53 yards for their first score and 26 for the second after Ted Ginn Jr. returned a punt 32 yards. A 15-yard penalty was added to the return because of a horse-collar tackle by punter Thomas Morstead along the sideline.
New Orleans defense came through with clutch third down stops to keep Carolina out of the end zone, however.
Defensive end Junior Galette had a sack of to stall the Panthers' opening drive, and Newton was forced to throw the ball away on third-and-goal from the 6 late in the first quarter.