Saints take control of the NFC South, sweep Panthers

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These are not the Saints we’re used to seeing.

They’re much better, and assuming the identity of their division rivals.

The Saints beat the Panthers 31-21, improving to 9-3 and sweeping their division rivals for a big tiebreaker, along with the one-game lead with four to play.

They did it by bludgeoning the Panthers with their running game, making plays on defense to frustrate Cam Newton, and taking advantages of mistakes.

That’s the platform the Panthers (8-4) have used in the past, but the Saints shook off last week’s loss to the Rams, and have now won nine of their last 10 games.

Running back Alvin Kamara finished with 126 yards from scrimmage (60 rushing, 66 receiving) and two touchdowns. Coupled with Mark Ingram‘s 85 yards and a touchdown on the ground, they beat the Panthers without a huge day from Drew Brees (though he was good, with 269 yards and a touchdown).

The second-ranked defense of the Panthers looked gassed late, missing tackles and making mistakes, or maybe they just couldn’t catch Kamara.

The Saints also held the Panthers to 279 yards of total offense, a startling display for the new leaders of the division.