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Saints Stay Alive In Playoff Hunt With 18-10 Win Over Carolina

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The New Orleans Saints are back at .500 and within range of their fifth straight playoff berth after beating Carolina, 18-10, Sunday at the Superdome in New Orleans.

The Saints (8-8) need a few other things to happen, but if they win at Atlanta (7-9) in a game scheduled for Sunday at noon on FOX, they have an excellent chance of advancing to the playoffs. There is a chance that game time could be changed or it could be moved up to Saturday.

Carolina dropped to 5-11 after leading 10-3 in the second quarter.

“It was a good win to get,” Saints coach Sean Payton said.

New Orleans, which was held to four yards rushing in the first half, finally saw running back Alvin Kamara get into the second level of the defense in the fourth quarter on a 30-yard burst up the middle to the Carolina 21-yard line. That gave him 34 yards on the day before he finished with 32 yards on 13 carries. But he caught five passes for 68 yards.

Three plays later, quarterback Taysom Hill found Kamara on a quick pass in the flat for a 12-yard touchdown and 18-10 lead with 7:49 to play in the game to finish a 63-yard drive in seven plays. But Brett Maher missed the extra point off the right upright after making three field goals.

“I was frustrated at halftime. Man, we didn’t do much of anything running the ball, but we were able to make some hay in the second half,” Payton said.

And defensive coordinator Dennis Allen’s unit did the rest.

Saints’ cornerback C.J. Gardner-Johnson iced the game in the final moments with an interception of Carolina quarterback Sam Darnold, who was sacked the play before by defensive end Cameron Jordan, who finished with 3.5 sacks.

“A big reason why we’re at 8-8 is the defense,” Payton said.

Kamara’s touchdown for the 18-10 lead was the Saints’ first since Hill scored on a 44-yard run with 1:07 to play in the fourth quarter of a 30-9 win at the New York Jets three games ago on Dec. 12. The Saints won 9-0 at Tampa Bay two weeks ago without a touchdown and lost 20-3 last week to Miami.

“We were still able to stay two-dimensional, which is important,” Payton said.

Hill completed 17 of 28 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown while rushing 12 times for a team-high 45 yards.

New Orleans took their first lead of the game with 2:07 to go in the third quarter at 12-10 on a 33-yard field goal by Maher. The Saints only drove 23 yards in six plays for the points as Carolina previously had to punt from deep in its territory. Hill scrambled for a 14-yard gain to set up the field goal.

Maher kicked a 41-yard field with two seconds remaining in the first half to cut Carolina’s lead to 10-9 at the half following a 73-yard drive in 10 plays.

Darnold’s fumble after a sack by safety P.J. Williams, who also recovered the fumble, set the Saints up at the Panthers’ 13-yard line. Three plays later, Maher booted a 27-yard field goal to get the Saints within 10-6 midway through the second quarter.

Darnold completed 17 of 26 passes for 132 yards with no touchdowns and two turnovers.

Chuba Hubbard’s 21-yard touchdown run gave Carolina a 10-3 lead early in the second period. Maher’s first field goal of the game from 41 yards out tied the game 3-3 with 4:09 left in the opening period. Carolina took a 3-0 lead at the 8:09 mark of the first quarter on a 32-yard field goal by Lirim Hajrullahn.

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Written by Glenn Guilbeau

Guilbeau has been on the LSU beat since 1998 with multiple outlets in Louisiana, prior to that he had covered both Auburn and Alabama. He won first place for his game feature on LSU's upset at Florida last season from the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He was also named Beat Writer of Year, by Louisiana Sports Writers Association in July; placed in three Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) categories – Beat Writer, Explanatory, Game Coverage – last spring. Guilbeau was also the FWAA first-place winner for columns in 2017 and was also the top overall winner in 2016 FWAA placing first for his game story, second in columns, and receiving honorable mention for features.

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