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Panthers fall to Saints 20-17 in home opener as offense struggles

No. 1 overall draft pick Bryce Young threw for under 200 yards as the Panthers offense was stifled all game long.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolina Panthers were outlasted in a defensive struggle against the New Orleans Saints en route to the team's second loss in as many weeks.

New Orleans kept 2023 No. 1 overall draft pick Bryce Young off-balance the whole game and essentially locked the game up with a late score in the fourth quarter to make it 20-9. Carolina pulled back to make it 20-17 but could not complete the comeback.

The Panthers scored the first points of the night on their opening drive with a 52-yard Eddy Piñeiro field goal. A long run from Miles Sanders and efficient passing from Young set up the team in field goal range.

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The Panthers forced the first turnover of the game in the second quarter when Vonn Bell intercepted a Carr pass deep in Saints territory. Young and the Panthers offense were unable to convert the score into points, however, as the Saints forced a strip sack of Young on a third down from the Saints' 18-yard line. 

Carolina's defense was in full force Monday night. The Panthers sacked Saints quarterback Derek Carr four times and were a force in the backfield all game long.

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Field goals were the only scores put up in the first half, albeit in low supply. The Saints took a 6-3 lead into the locker room after a pair of kicks from Blake Grupe.

Young coughed up another fumble on the opening drive of the second half but a defensive holding penalty kept the Panthers offense on the field.

Piñeiro evened the score at 6-6 with a solid 55-yard field goal. The Panthers were set up in good field position following a Saints three-and-out inside their own 10-yard line. A clutch Johnny Hekker punt forced the Saints to be in bad field position.

The Saints added two touchdowns in the second half to jump out to a 20-9 lead with just five minutes remaining. 

Young mustered one scoring drive late in the game with a touchdown pass to Adam Thielen but it did not impact the outcome as the Panthers fell to 0-2 for the second straight season.

The Panthers' offense struggled to make meaningful drives all night long and were ineffective on third downs, converting just four of 14 chances. Young finished with just 153 yards passing and one touchdown, completing 22 of 33 passes. The Saints sacked Young four times.

Carolina's rushing attack was inept as well. The team only managed 100 yards on the ground, led by Sanders with 43 yards.

Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson suffered an ankle injury in the first half that head coach Frank Reich called "significant." He is expected to be out indefinitely.

Carr passed for 228 yards and an interception. Taysom Hill led the Saints with 75 yards rushing.

The loss leaves the Panthers in a hole after two weeks in the NFC South. The Saints, Atlanta Falcons, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are all 2-0 while the Panthers remain winless.

The Panthers will try to find the win column in Week 3 against the Seattle Seahawks (1-1).

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