Panthers defeat Saints 22-14 to snap 9-game losing streak

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Laviska Shenault was frustrated about being declared inactive for his first two games with the Carolina Panthers after being acquired in a late preseason trade from the Jacksonville Jaguars.

But the third-year receiver took advantage of his first chance to play on Sunday in a big way.

Shenault caught a 67-yard momentum-changing touchdown pass from Baker Mayfield in the fourth quarter, Marquis Haynes returned it 44 yards for a touchdown and the Panthers defeated the New Orleans Saints 22-14 to snap a nine-game losing streak.

“Knowing what I can bring to the table, it’s hard not being able to do what you love to do,” said Shenault, who sat out the first two games while learning the book play “I bring a lot of skill to the team and when I can be free and go play, that’s what you get.”

Mayfield threw for 170 yards, Christian McCaffrey ran for 108 and Shenault had 90 yards receiving as the Panthers (1-2) won at home for the first time since beating the Saints 26-7 on September 19, 2021.

While Mayfield just arrived in Carolina this year, he said ending the losing streak, “is a weight lifted off your shoulders.”

Jameis Winston, playing with an injured back, completed 25 of 41 passes for 353 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, while rookie Chris Olave had nine catches for 147 yards for a Saints wide receiver corps that lost Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry and Tre’ Quan Smith to injuries in the second half.

“I think we have to be better early in the game,” Saints coach Dennis Allen said. “We must act better. That certainly starts with us as a coaching staff. We have to put a good plan together and give our boys a chance to be successful.”

Carolina’s defense held Winston and the Saints scoreless for three quarters before Mark Ingram cut the lead to 13-7 with a 5-yard TD run early in the fourth.

But on the second play of the ensuing series, Shenault caught a pass in the flat, juked a defender and raced along the left sideline for a touchdown to give the Panthers some cushion with 12:06 left.

“I saw green,” Shenault said. “I saw an opportunity that I had to take away. It felt so good.”

Carolina’s defense took it from there, intercepting Winston twice in the fourth quarter to put the game away.

Cornerback Jaycee Horn got a hand on Winston’s pass on a blitz and 320-pound defensive tackle Derrick Brown reached out to grab the ball with one hand for the interception, setting up Eddy Pineiro’s third field goal to give Carolina a 22 lead. -7. Winston answered with a 4-yard TD pass to Marquez Callaway, but Horn intercepted Winston on a desperation Hail Mary at midfield as time expired.

Winston fell to 4-7 against the Panthers during his career, with 18 interceptions and 10 touchdown passes.

Defensive end Cameron Jordan said the Saints have to be better against the run if they want to get back on the winning track.

“We have to focus on what we have to do as a mission on defense,” Jordan said. “We talk about stopping the run and today he didn’t stop the run. They averaged (4.7) yards per clip. It starts with the defense. It starts with me. It starts with (the defensive line). We have to clean up our things now.”

The Saints (1-2) committed a total of three turnovers and were flagged seven times for 58 yards. Wil Lutz missed one field goal and had another blocked as part of the parade of mistakes.

“We beat ourselves with penalties,” Allen said. “We beat ourselves with turnovers.”

The Panthers entered Week 3 as the only NFL team without a takeaway.

But they got a big one early on as Frankie Luvu reached his arm in and ripped the ball off Alvin Kamara at the edge of the scrimmage. Haynes picked up the loose ball and wandered 44 yards for a sideline with an entourage at his side.

“He released the spirit of the defense,” Panthers coach Matt Rhule said.

Luvu said it felt great to have a turnover after he dropped a potential Pick-6 in a 19-16 loss to the New York Giants last week.

“I knew I messed it up last time and I owe it to the boys, and I hope they’re okay with that,” Luvu said.

Saints: The wide receiver position was decimated by injuries in the second half with Landry (ankle), Thomas (toe) and Smith (concussion) all leaving the game. Smith had 105 yards receiving on four catches before leaving. … LG Andrus Peat left early with a concussion.

Panthers: CBs Donte Jackson and C.J. suffered. Henderson neck injuries, but they returned.

Saints: Play the Vikings on Sunday in London.

Panthers: Host the Cardinals on Sunday.

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