Winners and losers from Panthers' wild-card loss to Saints

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"(The Panthers) were going to be a tough out...and we knew it was going to be a challenge", Saints coach Sean Payton said.

Meanwhile, Saints coach Sean Payton will be trying to change or disguise most everything his offense has done against the Panthers, which may be hard as those old plays accounted for 400 yards in the 31-21 win and 362 yards in the 34-13 victory. Why should the 49ers care?

With each Saints victory, the gap between the 49ers' first-round pick and their second-rounder increases.

That left the Panthers with 1:51 on the clock and 69 yards to cover if they were to pull out the win.

It appears the referees could not come to an agreement on a controversial call late in Sunday's NFC wild-card game.

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Bell broke up an errant deep ball on third down, and on fourth-and-23 with the game on the line, defensive coordinator Dennis Allen went back to what's worked before. "I'm not going to take the cowardly way and point somebody else out". "That's a tough one to handle". "We held them in the red zone". And we didn't play well enough; big plays like that will hurt you and it definitely did in this game.

For the New Orleans Saints, this team is making its first postseason appearance since 2013. From a back-shoulder throw up the seam to Josh Hill for 25 yards to a 46-yard bomb while on the move to Michael Thomas, this was a vintage Brees performance after a season when his greatness was often obscured by Kamara and Ingram. The former Ohio State Buckeye will get to match talents with former MI wide receiver Devin Funchess, who leads the Panthers with 63 catches for 840 yards and eight touchdowns.

"That was huge, ' Brees said".

The roof nearly came off the place when Vonn Bell brought some wood of his own, sacking Carolina's Cam Newton, who just might be Superman afterall.

-Football's a amusing game, example No. 13,424: Graham Gano missed a 25-yard field goal, his first miss under 30 yards in 53 attempts.

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The Saints led 21-6 in the final minute of the first half, but the Panthers have since rallied to pull within less than a touchdown with more than 12 minutes to go. Other players have developed into more significant roles as the Saints ascended to the top of the NFC South and past the wild-card round of the playoffs.

In the National Football League money exchange, touchdowns trump field goals, and that's exactly what the Saints did in taking a 21-9 halftime lead over the Panthers: three touchdowns to three field goals.

The Saints offense did not exactly help the defense. The teams met in the September 11 season opener, with Minnesota winning 29-19 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

"But in these games, there are always wrinkles on both sides that you always try to prepare for, or at least have the ability to make adjustments on the run when you need to", he said.

The contributions from such players have been "the most encouraging thing", Payton said, adding that "the resiliency and the fight" of his team "is something that's great to be around".

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Drew Brees serves as the middle man, one of the few links between the team that won the franchise's first Super Bowl and the one trying to win the second one.

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