Panthers get a kick out of 32-21 victory

NFL.com wire reports

NEW ORLEANS (Dec. 5, 2004) -- John Kasay wasn't interested in the record, he was focused on the outcome.

Kasay kept the Carolina Panthers' late run for a playoff berth on track with six field goals in a 32-21 victory over the New Orleans Saints.

"If you know me, you'd know I really don't play for records," Kasay said. "But we really needed the win. That's the important thing."

It was the Panthers' fourth victory in a row and, in the weak NFC, their 5-7 record has them in the middle of the wild-card race.

The Saints (4-8) have lost three straight and seven of the last nine games. Some of the few fans remaining by the end of the game chanted "Fire Haslett" as the clock wound down, referring to beleaguered coach Jim Haslett.

The Panthers have shaken off the loss of 14 players to injuries. The defending NFC champions put the game out of reach early and stopped the Saints' second-half effort with two interceptions, including one on the Carolina 11-yard line.

"We've become a new football team," Carolina coach John Fox said. "We have a lot of new faces in there that are starting to come together."

Kasay's six field goals set a Panthers record; he kicked five in a game twice.

Jake Delhomme, playing with a cast on his broken right thumb, completed 22 of 29 passes for 294 yards and a touchdown, making him the first Carolina quarterback to throw 20 touchdown passes in a season since Steve Beuerlein tossed 36 in 1999.

"We're starting to find ourselves," Delhomme said. "We're doing some good things. We just have to keep it going."

Nick Goings rushed for 122 yards on 36 carries, and Muhsin Muhammad had 10 receptions for 179 yards against the NFL's worst defense. The Saints are the only team to allow more than 400 yards per game (418.3) and Carolina gained 401. New Orleans has not held an opponent under 20 points in any game this season.

The offense is no better. New Orleans has not scored in the first quarter since Sept. 19. Against Carolina, it did not make a first down until the two-minute warning in the first half.

The Saints had 280 yards in total offense, but only 74 yards in the first half.

"The first half was bad, ugly football," Haslett said. "The second half we came out and moved the ball and rallied a little. But that was bad football."

Aaron Brooks completed 20 of 40 attempts for 251 yards and three touchdowns. Joe Horn had eight catches for 160 yards, giving him a 1,000-yard season for the fourth time in the last five years.

Deuce McAllister rushed for only 22 yards on seven carries, his lowest yardage of the season, except for the San Francisco game where he was injured on the third play.

The Saints fell behind in the first quarter for 11th straight game. Kasay capped the opening drive with a 30-yard field goal, then added a 50-yarder.

Kindal Moorehead then recovered McAllister's fumble on the New Orleans 10 and Delhomme connected with Muhammad for a 10-yard TD.

Goings rushed for a 6-yard touchdown to open the second quarter. The 75-yard drive was fueled by a 51-yard reception by Muhammad.

Even when the Saints appeared to get a break, they spoiled it.

Mike McKenzie picked off a pass and returned it for 34 yards, only to be flagged for holding prior to the interception. Two plays later, defensive end Charles Grant drew a personal foul. Five plays after that, Kasay kicked a 46-yard field goal to make it 23-0.

"If you're going to blame somebody, blame everybody," Grant said. "Blame me, blame the coach, blame the defensive linemen, the defensive backs, the special teams. Blame everybody in the organization."

The Saints finally found the end zone with 1:38 left in the first half when Brooks hit Horn with a 13-yard pass.

But Kasay's 25-yard field goal made it 26-7 at halftime.

The Saints scored on a 24-yard reception by Horn, then Kasay hit a pair of 21-yard field goals in the fourth quarter. Brooks hit Donte' Stallworth for a 25-yard touchdown with 39 seconds remaining.

Notes
-Carolina's defense has forced 15 turnovers and has 11 sacks in the past four weeks, including one sack and two interceptions Sunday.
-Horn has caught at least one pass in 89 consecutive NFL games.
-Steve Gleason of the Saints was ejected for punching Carolina DE Kemp Rasmussen.