- Special Sections
Seeing their starting quarterback and running back leave Sunday's game with injuries, the Carolina Panthers put up a pitiful performance that included one field goal and just 68 yards of passing offense.
All total, the Panthers managed just 195 total net yards, mostly on the ground, as the Saints posted a 34-3 victory at Bank of America Stadium.
"Pretty pathetic," said receiver Steve Smith, held without a catch until the final minute. "That would be the only thing I have to say. There are no explanations, no excuses."
Carolina lost quarterback Matt Moore and running backs Jonathan Stewart and Tyrell Sutton to injuries with running back DeAngelo Williams already sidelined.
"We are not really a juggernaut right now," said coach John Fox in the last year of his contract. "To lose two of your three running backs that were active for the day and your starting quarterback, things could go from kind of not so good to really bad."
After Moore was injured in the game's second quarter, Jimmy Clausen went 8-of-18 with an interception and 47 yards passing. His third quarter interception by the Saints' Jabari Greer was returned 24 yards for a touchdown. He was later benched in the fourth quarter.
Rookie Tony Pike then made his NFL debut. The sixth-round pick from Cincinnati finished 6-of-12 for 47 yards.
"There probably wasn't much fear of a comeback at that point in the game," Fox said of benching Clausen. "It gave (Pike) valuable time."
With a rift appearing between Fox and management's decision to slash payroll and begin a youth movement, Fox shook off a post-game question about Carolina's lack of depth.
"I'm not going to comment on personnel," Fox said.
By the time Pike took the field, the Panthers were down to a skeleton crew and few of their home fans were still in the stands.
Stewart, starting with Williams (foot) missing his second straight game, left in the first quarter with a head injury after gaining 30 yards on five carries.
The Saints won a replay challenge on the play, giving them the ball when it was ruled Stewart fumbled. It set up Brees' 7-yard touchdown pass to Shockey to give New Orleans the lead for good at 7-3.
Shockey, though, injured his ribs on what was his 500th career catch and didn't return. He was sent to the hospital just before halftime.
"We took him just to make sure there was nothing else more serious," coach Sean Payton said. "The X-rays were negative."
The Saints didn't need him, not with the Panthers failing to reach double digits in points for the fourth time in eight games. And even the backups got hurt â€” third-string running back Tyrell Sutton left with an ankle injury.
The Saints have had their share of injuries, too, namely to running backs Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas. They remained sidelined and the Saints got off to a slow start.
Brees bobbled a snap and rushed a throw that bounced off Robert Meachem's hands and was picked off by Richard Marshall. He returned Brees' 12th interception â€” one more than he had all of last season â€” 67 yards to set up John Kasay's 20-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
That was the only offensive success for the Panthers, who finished with 68 yards passing and had two more turnovers to give them 25 on the season.
But with few options, Fox said Moore would start next week at Tampa Bay if he's healthy.
"I think he can operate our offense the best of the quarterbacks," Fox said. "unless we decide to go to the wishbone."