Allen thrives up un­til in­jury, Pan­thers beat Brees-less Saints

Calhoun Times - - Sports Wednesday - By Brett Mar­tel AP Sports Writer

NEW OR­LEANS — Un­drafted rookie Kyle Allen passed for 228 yards and two touch­downs be­fore in­jur­ing his shoul­der, and the Carolina Pan­thers cruised to a 33- 14 vic­tory over a Saints squad look­ing ahead to the play­offs.

Allen, a third- stringer pressed into ser­vice with Cam New­ton and backup Tay­lor Heinicke out, also ran for a short touch­down as Carolina snapped a seven-game slide. He led the Pan­thers to three TDs and a field goal on the first four drives of his first NFL start. He played un­til the fourth quar­ter, when he was hit hard by Saints rookie end Mar­cus Daven­port while re­leas­ing an in­com­plete pass.

Carolina ( 7- 9) led 23- 0 at half­time, mark­ing the first time since coach Sean Pay­ton was hired by New Or­leans in 2006 that the Saints (13-3) were shut out at home in a first half.

Allen’s touch­downs went for 53 yards to re­ceiver Cur­tis Sa­muel and 8 yards to tight end Ian Thomas.

Hav­ing al­ready clinched the NFC’s top seed, Pay­ton scratched sev­eral healthy of­fen­sive starters, in­clud­ing record- set­ting quar­ter­back Drew Brees and dy­namic sec­ond-year run­ning back Alvin Ka­mara.

Brees’ re­place­ment, Teddy Bridge­wa­ter, started an NFL game for the first time since the 2015 sea­son. The move gave Bridge­wa­ter a chance to re­build his cre­den­tials as a po­ten­tial NFL starter af­ter miss­ing most of the past two sea­sons with a ca­reerthreat­ing knee in­jury. He strug­gled much of the game, how­ever, go­ing 14 of 22 for 118 yards, one touch­down and one in­ter­cep­tion.

The Pan­thers scored the game’s first two TDs on Allen’s sneak and Cameron Ar­tis- Payne’s 15- yard run, and New Or­leans fell be­hind 30- 0 be­fore scor­ing its first points on Bridge­wa­ter’s TD pass to rookie Tre’Quan Smith early in the fourth quar­ter.

Saints third- string QB Taysom Hill added a 9- yard TD on a read­op­tion run.

The Saints had lit­tle at stake other than the op­por­tu­nity to se­cure the fran­chise’s first 14- win reg­u­lar sea­son. They’ve gone 13- 3 three times, all un­der Pay­ton in 2009, 2011 and this sea­son. The 2009 team won the Su­per Bowl.

RE­CEIV­ING RECORD: Saints re­ceiver Michael Thomas came in need­ing 24 yards to break Joe Horn’s sin­gle­sea­son fran­chise mark of 1,399 yards re­ceiv­ing in 2004. Thomas started, but with the Saints’ of­fense strug­gling to sus­tain drives, it took un­til the first minute of the fourth quar­ter be­fore Thomas eclipsed Horn’s mark with a 6-yard catch. The Saints were clearly keep­ing track; nu­mer­ous team­mates con­grat­u­lated Thomas right af­ter the catch.

RARE COMPAMY: With his 22-yard re­cep­tion in the first quar­ter — his only re­cep­tion of the game — Chris­tian McCaffrey be­came the third run­ning back in NFL his­tory to have 1,500 yards rush­ing and re­ceiv­ing in his first two NFL sea­sons com­bined. He joined Ka­mara and Her­schel Walker.

IN­JURIES: Pan­thers: Allen’s in­jury in the fourth quar­ter was the only one an­nounced by the Pan­thers. He was re­placed by newly signed re­serve Gar­rett Gil­bert, who went 2 for 3 for 40 yards.

Ver­sa­tile Saints of­fen­sive line­man An­drus Peat, who nor­mally starts at left guard but also has played both tackle po­si­tions this sea­son, left in the first half with a hand in­jury. De­fen­sive line­men Shel­don Rank­ins and Alex Okafor both re­ceived treat­ment for ap­par­ently mi­nor in­juries and re­turned to ac­tion un­til they were subbed out to give re­serves more play­ing time in the sec­ond half.

UP NEXT: Pan­thers: Start their off­sea­son with ques­tions sur­round­ing the fu­tures of sev­eral prom­i­nent play­ers, in­clud­ing de­fen­sive end Julius Pep­pers, line­backer Thomas Davis, safety Mike Adams and re­ceiver Devin Funchess, who have ex­pir­ing con­tracts. Mean­while, cen­ter Ryan Kalil al­ready said he’d re­tire af­ter the sea­son. Pep­pers, Davis and Adams are all in their mid-to-late 30s.

Saints: Host their play­off opener in the di­vi­sional round on the week­end of Jan. 12- 13.

/ AP-Butch Dill

Pan­thers quar­ter­back Kyle Allen (7) scram­bles un­der pres­sure from Saints de­fen­sive tackle David Onye­mata (93) in Sun­day’s game in New Or­leans.

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