By Mike Triplett
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – With another stirring fourth-quarter performance from quarterback Drew Brees, the New Orleans Saints beat the Carolina Panthers 30-27 Sunday for their fourth consecutive victory. Trailing 27-23 with 7:06 left, Brees engineered a 13 play, 89-yard scoring drive that ended with a 6-yard touchdown pass to running back Pierre Thomas with 50 second remaining. Brees completed 8 of 9 passes on the drive for 80 yards but there were other heroes, too.
Thomas, for example, pulled in a screen pass with one hand and then broke a tackle and gained 18 yards, while tight end Jimmy Graham had back-to-back receptions early in the drive that gained a combined 26 yards. The first of them, a 12-yard pickup, came with New Orleans facing a third-and-3 on its own 18-yard line.
It was the second time in the last three games where Brees has brought the Saints from behind in the fourth quarter and marked the 19th time as a Saint he has led a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime.
“I remember looking at the clock and there was seven minutes left and we were down by four so we’ve got to go down and get a touchdown and win this thing,” Brees said. “So, it was, ‘here goes.’ It was methodical, one play at a time, a good mix of pass and run, getting everyone involved. I had to convert some pretty critical third downs. All in all, I thought it was a very effective drive and one which we had all the confidence in the world we were going to go down and score and take the lead.
“Calm, cool, collected,” Brees said of his – and the offense’s – outlook as they trotted on to the field. “We’ve been here many times before, which we have. Let’s just go be us, let’s go do what we do.”
When it was suggested the drive was the sort that stamps great quarterbacks, Brees demurred.