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New Orleans falls to Panthers

By By Richard Dark / EMG staff writer
Oct. 27, 2003
NEW ORLEANS If ever a game defined a season, Sunday's was that one for the New Orleans Saints.
A win at home against the division-leading Carolina Panthers would have put them at the .500 mark with one game remaining before the bye week. A loss dropped them to 3-5 heading to Tampa Bay.
Panthers' running back Stephen Davis made sure the latter happened.
Davis ran roughshod over the Saints with 178 yards on 31 carries, including manufacturing 43 during the game-winning drive in overtime. Davis' 34-yard scamper to the Saints 11 set up the deciding 31-yard field goal, for a heartbreaking 23-20 defeat.
One player that exemplified that was former Ole Miss star Deuce McAllister, who fought through an injury in the first half to produce 101 yards on 26 carries, but it was a yard he did not get in the extra session that may have haunted the Saints the most.
Facing fourth and 1 from the Carolina 37, Haslett said there were three options on the table allow kicker John Carney, who had earlier booted a 43-yarder inside the final minute of regulation to force overtime, to kick a 54-yard field goal.
The other two options were to have Brooks run a naked bootleg, essentially a scramble to the weak side or give the ball to McAllister and let him gain the needed three feet. Deuce took the handoff in the backfield and dove in the air, but was met by Carolina linebacker Julius Peppers, who stripped him of the ball.
Instead, the Panthers took over at their own 38 and five plays later, after quarterback Jake Delhomme ran the ball into the center of the field, Kasay ended it with his third field goal of the day, sending a stunned sellout Superdome crowd of 68,370 silently to the exits.
The south Louisiana native and former backup to Aaron Brooks again did just enough (12-of-27, 148 yards) to keep his team in the win column, deferring to the dangerous Davis. "Jake did not beat us today," Haslett said. "Davis and our turnovers did."
Early in the game, former Magee and Ole Miss standout tight end Kris Mangum hauled in a short pass from Delhomme on third and eight and rumbled 22 yards to the 1. It set up the first TD run of the day by Davis, which came at 13:30 in the second quarter and gave the visitors a 10-0 lead
The Panthers had already opened the day's scoring by capitalizing on a big 41-yard rumble by Davis with a 24-yard field goal by John Kasay at the 5:15 mark of the first.
But the Saints stormed back in the final frenetic seven minutes of the first half with a pair of TDs from Brooks to Horn. Horn tweaked his knee on the highlight reel 14-yarder, but managed to come back and put the Saints ahead with a 23-yard grab with 1:33 left. Michael Lewis' 36-yard punt return set up the latter.
Brooks finished the day 20-of-33 for 187 yards and an interception. He was sacked three times and inexplicably fumbled the ball while attempting a pass, despite being untouched.
After Horn's second score, the Panthers couldn't convert on third and long and Steve Gleason blocked a Todd Sauerbrun punt with four ticks left in the half.Carney then nailed a 46-yarder that gave New Orleans a 17-10 halftime lead.
But although the defense held Davis in check in the middle two frames by only allowing him 39 yards, Davis took advantage of a tired front seven in the fourth quarter and OT.