Steve Smith won’t return, but Panthers lead 7-6

AP

The Panthers might have lost their most experienced offensive threat, but they’re not out of this yet.

A combination of the two things they can count on most (a stout defense and their run game) has given them a 7-6 lead over the Saints at halftime.

An incredible athletic interception by Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis (and his three torn ACLs) was followed by a 43-yard touchdown run by DeAngelo Williams.

The Panthers have kept the pressure on the Saints all day, sacking Drew Brees five times in the first half. The decision to give rookie Terron Armstead his first offensive snaps of his career has backfired, as he’s been beaten physically by Greg Hardy and confused by a variety of looks by the Panthers defense.

The Panthers won’t have Steve Smith, however. Their veteran wide receiver left the game with a left knee injury and won’t return. He tried coming back for a play after the initial non-contact injury, but hobbled off and was taken back to the locker room, leading to the official announcement.

That leaves an unsteady offense without its most reliable receiving threat, putting more pressure on a thin group of wideouts.