CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers did not perform up to their standards in the showdown at New Orleans, losing 31-21 to snap a four-game winning streak.
But the Panthers are pointing to an array of correctable mistakes. If those can be fixed, they could be back in line for more important games as the season winds down.
"Missed opportunities, self-inflicted mistakes," head coach Ron Rivera said. "Again, you can't have penalties."
The Panthers (8-4) were aiming for their second comeback victory in as many weeks, but that didn't materialize as the mistakes mounted. It was only Carolina's second loss in seven road games this season.
"We couldn't get that momentum back," safety Mike Adams. "It's tough in this league to get that back and we didn't do that."
There was no particular area where the Panthers excelled against the Saints, so there will be attention placed across the board when it comes to finding solutions.
The Panthers had six penalties and one turnover, though a botched punt play was just as devastating even though it didn't count as a turnover.
Still, Carolina is in playoff position in the NFC. As for the NFC South, the Panthers are just one game out of first place, though New Orleans will hold any tiebreaker after posting the regular-season sweep.
"We might see that team again," quarterback Cam Newton said. "We have to learn from this. We will learn from this."
A three-game homestand is next, beginning with Sunday's home game against the Minnesota Vikings.
The Panthers have been clear that they didn't play well against New Orleans, and they don't appear to be sugarcoating any of it. Winning that game would have allowed them to control their own destiny within the division, but they remain in playoff contention.
The Panthers have played strong for most of the past two months, so their confidence remains high.
"We just hit a lull," Newton said. "Playing a team like this, we have to find a way to keep on attacking and we didn't do that. ... I have full faith a game like this won't happen again."
The Panthers are pointing inward when it comes to getting things right for the rest of December.
"Just have to move on, correct those mistakes," cornerback James Bradberry said.
--Wide receiver Devin Funchess has averaged 86.5 yards per game in four games since the trade of Kelvin Benjamin. So, he has mostly held up his end as the team's new go-to receiver.
His touchdown reception at New Orleans gives him a team-high six touchdown receptions this season.
But what might have been more significant to him was a drop on a slant pattern that could have pulled the Panthers within seven points earlier in the second half.
"That's on me," Funchess said. "I dropped the ball on that one."
Funchess has been dealing with a banged-up shoulder. He had all his catches in the second half, including a 24-yard catch-and-run play for a fourth-quarter touchdown.
--Quarterback Cam Newton is one of three NFL quarterbacks all-time with at least six seasons of 500 rushing yards or more. The other two are Randall Cunningham and Michael Vick.
Newton gained 51 yards on the ground against New Orleans on Sunday, marking the fifth game this season that he has led the Panthers in rushing. He has 515 rushing yards this season.
But those yards didn't do enough, and Newton said there were collective shortcomings in the 31-21 loss.
"The three phases of football just didn't come together," Newton said. "I hope this is my last time speaking on this."
NOTES: LB Thomas Davis played sparingly against New Orleans as part of a pregame plan to limit the number of plays as the linebacker tries to get back to full health. He has a hamstring injury. ... TE Greg Olsen didn't play against the Saints because of a recurring issue with his foot injury. Head coach Ron Rivera said Monday Olsen might be available for the next game against Minnesota. ... LT Matt Kalil played through illness in the New Orleans game. Head coach Ron Rivera said Monday that Kalil was given an IV before the game.
REPORT CARD VS. SAINTS
--PASSING OFFENSE: D -- The Panthers didn't move the ball when they needed to in the second half. QB Cam Newton had a good passer rating through the first half, but there were too many glitches (including some in the second half) when the Panthers needed to get moving. The Panthers didn't stretch the field with the passing attack. Newton threw for 183 passing yards despite the team trailing for most of the game.
--RUSHING OFFENSE: C-plus -- RB Jonathan Stewart had a decent first half and QB Cam Newton finished with a team-high 51 yards on the ground, some of those gained out of necessity. RB Christian McCaffrey wasn't much of a factor on the ground, and the team ended up with 112 rushing yards.
--PASS DEFENSE: D -- The Panthers gave up too much through the air. New Orleans QB Drew Brees completed 25 of 34 throws without an interception. There were a couple of situations when defensive backs didn't finish plays.
--RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus -- This area wasn't great, but nearly half of the Saints' 148 rushing yards were gained on one big run (72 yards) by RB Mark Ingram II. The Panthers held the Saints to less than 3 yards per carry otherwise. However, the Saints scored three touchdowns on the ground.
--SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- The Panthers had excelled at times in this area, but not in this game. P Michael Palardy had an unusually ragged outing, including a mishandled snap that handed the Saints ideal field position. WR Kaelin Clay fumbled a punt in the second half that hampered hopes for a comeback.
--COACHING: C-minus -- The Panthers played better than they had in the first meeting of the season against New Orleans, so that was a positive. Despite a week of suggesting that the pieces would be in place, that didn't turn out to be the case. For instance, TE Greg Olsen didn't play because of a foot injury that could have come because of a premature return from the injury list a week earlier. This had the buildup of a big game and the Panthers didn't come through.
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