The Panthers own the longest winning streak in one place over one team in the seven-year history of the NFC South division, and have three of the six longest such streaks.
According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, Carolina has defeated the Saints in Louisiana seven straight times dating to the 2002 season, the first for the NFC South (That's the year the NFL expanded from three to four divisions in each conference). The Panthers of course try to extend that streak Sunday afternoon in New Orleans against the undefeated Saints.
The Panthers also own two more similar winning streaks over division rivals...
Carolina won in Tampa Bay five consecutive seasons, from 2003-2007. The Bucs beat the Panthers at home last season, before falling to visiting Carolina again in October.
The third-longest such streak in NFC South history belongs to the Saints, who have beaten the Falcons at home four straight years, from 2006-2009. Their most recent victory in that stretch came Monday night.
Three NFC South teams own matching three-game win streaks: The Panthers, who won in Atlanta in 2005, 2006 and 2007; the Saints, who won in Tampa Bay 2002, 2003 and 2004; and the Bucs, who beat the Saints on the road in 2003, 2004 and 2005.
Only the Falcons do not own such a winning streak of at least three games in this nascent division's history. Atlanta has defeated teams two years in a row in the same place.
But such Atlanta streaks pale in comparison to the Panthers' mastery on the road against the Saints. To win this many times on the road against the same team consecutively takes skill, certainly, but also a bit of luck. Three times the Panthers played at the Saints when New Orleans had nothing to play for. Only four of these matchups meant something to the Saints, as it does Sunday.
(Note: You could argue that last season's regular season finale meant something to the Saints because quarterback Drew Brees was chasing the single-season passing yardage record. But the game meant nothing to the Saints defense. Witness the 33-31 final).
Here is a recap of what happened in these meaningful games:
--Dec. 29, 2002. Panthers 10, Saints 6
With backup Jake Delhomme looking on in his final game with the Saints, starter Aaron Brooks tossed two interceptions and completed just 12 of 31 attempts against the 6-9 Panthers. Panthers fullback Brad Hoover scored the only touchdown of the game on a pass from Rodney Peete. The loss dropped the Saints to 9-7. It was their third consecutive defeat, costing them a playoff birth as they finished one-half game behind the NFC sixth seed, the Falcons.
--Oct. 26, 2003. Panthers 23, Saints 20 (OT)
A game featuring three lead changes ended when John Kasay kicked a 31-yard field goal in overtime. Stephen Davis ran for 178 yards and two scores for the Panthers, who improved to 6-1. Deuce McAllister ran for 101 yards for the Saints, who fell to 3-5.
--Dec. 5, 2004. Panthers 32, Saints 21
A matchup of 4-7 teams still in the playoff race belonged to the Panthers, who built a 26-7 halftime lead and were never threatened. Carolina outgained New Orleans 401-280, getting 179 receiving yards from Muhsin Muhammad and 122 yards rushing by Nick Goings.
--Oct. 7, 2007. Panthers 16, Saints 13
A 52-yard field goal by Kasay broke a 13-13 tie in the fourth quarter, dropping the Saints to 0-4. The Saints outgained Carolina 341-243, but interceptions by Panthers defensive backs Richard Marshall and Chris Harris gave the Panthers an edge in turnovers and the win that pushed them to 3-2.