Carolina came out strong with an opening 13-play drive that ate up six-plus minutes and ended with a field goal. The Saints went three and out. On the ensuing punt, Ted Ginn broke free on the return and if not for the punter bringing him down with a flagrant facemask, he would have gone for a touchdown. The resulting penalty set the Panthers up deep in Saints territory. Once again, however, the Panthers were held to a field goal, prompting talk that they were in control but not winning by enough.
With the Panthers controlling the ball nearly 11 and a half minutes in the first quarter, the Saints finally came to life with a 38-yard run by Darren Sproles that keyed a Drew Brees touchdown pass to Marques Colston to give New Orleans their first lead of the game.
With about four minutes to go in the half, the Saints were deep in Panthers’ territory again when Brees hit Colston again for a TD that was called back on a holding call. A few plays later, there was Brees finding Colston in the end zone again anyway. That second first half touchdown ties the amount that Carolina has surrendered in the first half all season prior to Sunday night.
Trading field goals for touchdowns hadn’t been serving the Panthers all that well, and fortunes turned for the worse when they went three and out just before the two-minute mark. It took about 1:40 for New Orleans to drive for a third touchdown of the half, landing in the hands of Jimmy Graham.