Drew Brees passed for two touchdowns and rushed for another as the host New Orleans Saints held off the visiting Carolina Panthers 27-24 on Sunday afternoon.
Brees completed 29 of 36 passes for 287 yards as the Saints (4-2) won their third consecutive game, defeating their NFC South rivals who fell to 3-4.
Teddy Bridgewater, who backed up Brees the last two seasons before signing with the Panthers in the offseason, completed 23 of 28 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns.
Wil Lutz's 43-yard field goal with 7:59 remaining gave New Orleans a 27-24 lead.
Bridgewater, who helped lead the Saints to a 5-0 record while Brees was sidelined by a thumb injury last season, drove Carolina to the New Orleans 38. But he was sacked by Marcus Davenport on third down at the 47.
Panthers head coach Matt Rhule sent Joey Slye out to try what would have been an NFL-record 65-yard field goal, but Slye's kick fell just short and the Saints ran out the clock.
Lutz's 41-yard field goal gave the Saints a 24-17 lead midway through the third quarter.
Curtis Samuel's 5-yard touchdown run pulled the Panthers even at the end of the third quarter.
The Saints held the football for more than eight minutes on the game's first possession, driving to Brees' 4-yard touchdown pass to Jared Cook on the 14th play of the drive.
Slye's 43-yard field goal on the ensuing possession cut the lead to 7-3 at the end of the first quarter.
Brees leaped 1 yard for a touchdown before Bridgewater threw a 74-yard touchdown pass to D.J. Moore, trimming the lead to 14-10.
After a fumble by Brees, Bridgewater's 7-yard touchdown pass to Moore gave the Panthers their first lead at 17-14 with 1:44 left in the half.
Brees then drove the Saints 75 yards in the final minute and half, throwing a 4-yard touchdown to Deonte Harris with two seconds left in the quarter to take a 21-17 halftime lead.
The Saints allowed season ticket-holders into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for the first time this season and the attendance was capped at 3,000.
--Field Level Media