Saints Panthers Football

New Orleans Saints running back Tony Jones celebrates after scoring against the Carolina Panthers during the second half of an NFL football game Monday, Sept. 18, 2023, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. —?The New Orleans Saints took a risk going into Monday's game against the Carolina Panthers, and it came back to bite them.?

The Saints kept only two running backs on their active roster against the Panthers, with both Kendre Miller (hamstring) and Kirk Merritt watching the game from the sideline in team-issued sweats.?

New Orleans was relying on Jamaal Williams and practice squad call-up Tony Jones to get through the game, but Williams was forced to leave the game in the second quarter with a hamstring injury, leaving Jones as the only running back on the roster.?

Jones appeared to have one notable miscue, failing to get his head turned around in time while running a route near the goal line. Jones was open on the play, but Derek Carr's pass sailed by him before Jones could present himself as a target.?

He made up for it later in the game, however, accounting for the Saints' two touchdowns — the first two of his career. The first came when he plunged through the Panthers defense for a 2-yard score that gave the Saints a 13-6 lead in the third quarter.?

On that drive, Jones turned his six carries into 22 yards rushing while converting two third downs and scoring the touchdown.?

Miller missed the season opener with his hamstring injury and was questionable coming into Monday night's game after being limited in practice all week. Merritt is a converted wide receiver who played just two offensive snaps last week.?

Moving on up

Michael Thomas climbed the Saints' career receptions list Monday night.

Thomas’ 6-yard reception with 6:23 left in the first quarter was the 533rd reception of his career. It put him ahead of Eric Martin, who starred for the Saints from 1985-93.

Thomas still has a way to go to get to the top of the list. Marques Colston finished his career with 711 receptions.

Thomas recorded seven first-half receptions for 55 yards. It was the most receptions he has had in a half since Dec. 16, 2019, when he caught nine against the Indianapolis Colts.

Sack trouble

For the second straight game, the Saints offensive line struggled protecting Carr. The Panthers sacked Carr three times in the first half. That comes on the heels of last week's season opener when Carr was sacked four times, all in the first half.?


Two former Saints players made big defensive plays for the Panthers. Defensive tackle Shy Tuttle, who played with the Saints from 2019-22, deflected a Carr pass. On the next play, safety Vonn Bell intercepted a Carr pass. Another former Saints player, quarterback Andy Dalton, came in on a fourth-and-short play, but the Panthers were penalized for a false start.?

Odds and ends

Saints second-round pick Isaiah Foskey made his NFL debut against the Panthers. ... Chris Olave's 42-yard catch in the third quarter Monday night was his sixth career catch of 40 or more yards, and his third against the Panthers to go for 38 or more.?

Email Luke Johnson at [email protected].