Backed by another dominant defensive performance, the Carolina Panthers defeated the New Orleans Saints, 26-7, at home Sunday to move to 2-0 on the season.
The Saints finished the day with a mere 128 yards of total offense, their fewest ever in 15 seasons under head coach Sean Payton. After throwing for five touchdown passes in a 35-point win over Green Bay last week, New Orleans quarterback Jameis Winston finished Sunday 11-of-22 for 111 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions while being sacked four times.
Saints running back Alvin Kamara was also a non-factor, carrying the ball eight times for five yards and catching four passes for 25 yards.
Carolina’s opening drive went 75 yards in five plays, ending on a 20-yard touchdown from Sam Darnold to receiver Brandon Zylstra.
Carolina ultimately built a 17-0 halftime, including a 2-yard touchdown pass from Darnold to D.J. Moore, who finished with eight catches for 79 yards and a score.
Darnold was 26-of-38 for 305 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. His total QBR of 77.9 was his highest in a game since posting an 85.2 in a 23-20 win over the Rams late last season.
Carolina running back Christian McCaffrey found the end zone for the first time this season Sunday while racking up 137 yards of total offense on 29 touches.
Carolina had 11 quarterback hits. Through two weeks, the Panthers are leading the NFL in yards allowed per game (190.0), passing yards allowed per game (143.5), rushing yards allowed per game (46.5), points allowed per game (10.5) and sacks (10).
The Panthers haven’t had a top-10 defense since the 2017 season, when they ranked seventh in the league allowing 317.1 yards per game. The 2017 season was the last year Carolina made the playoffs.
Carolina will try to improve to 3-0 this week with a road game against the 1-1 Houston Texans, who are coming off a 31-21 loss to Cleveland on Sunday. The Panthers and Texans will play on Thursday night in a game nationally televised on NFL Network.
The Panthers have won three straight games over the Texans since the 2011 season. In 2019, Carolina defeated Houston, 16-10, thanks to a short McCaffrey touchdown and three field goals from Joey Slye.