By MIKE CRANSTON
The Associated Press
Sunday, November 25, 2007; 5:47 PM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Drew Brees playing one good half was more than enough for the New Orleans Saints against the rudderless Carolina Panthers.
Brees shook off a slow start to throw for 260 yards and three touchdowns and run for another score as the Saints stayed competitive in the NFC South race with a 31-6 win over the Panthers on Sunday.
Marques Colston caught seven passes for 93 yards and a TD for the Saints (5-6), who snapped a two-game losing streak. They remained two games behind division-leading Tampa Bay heading to Sunday's home game against the Buccaneers.
The Panthers (4-7) lost their fifth straight game, dropped to 0-5 at home and were booed again by their fans after another mistake-filled performance that led David Carr to be benched early in the fourth quarter.
Carr, getting the start after 44-year-old Vinny Testaverde was a late scratch with a sore back, threw seven straight incompletions to start the game. He wasn't much better after that, finishing 10-of-22 for 95 yards and two interceptions. He was replaced by rookie Matt Moore after his second pick.
Not that the Panthers had any running game, either. DeShaun Foster rushed nine times for minus-5 yards and lost a fumble.
Brees and the Saints slogged through the first half, as well, before awakening after halftime with three third-quarter touchdowns to turn a 10-6 game into a rout.
Brees threw a 1-yard TD pass to Billy Miller on their first possession. The second ended with Brees' 8-yard run on a draw.
Foster fumbled on Carolina's next play, and Brees quickly turned it into another score, ending with a 4-yard bullet in traffic to Colston to make it 31-6.
The Saints hope their dominant second half will jump-start their streaky season. Picked to win the division, they started 0-4, the last a last-second loss to the Panthers. Then they won four straight, only to lose two in a row until getting well against the spiraling Panthers.
Carolina managed just 195 yards of offense. Steve Smith had six catches for 47 yards, but about all he did in the second half was signal to the fans to stop booing Carr.
Carr wasn't alone in a day of ineptitude for Carolina that will bring even more speculation about coach John Fox's job security. The Panthers had four turnovers in their seventh straight home loss dating to last season.
Testaverde was ruled out of the game 90 minutes before kickoff with a stiff back. Fox made Testaverde the starter ahead of the struggling Carr before Testaverde's back stiffened Saturday.
Carr's lone win as Panthers starter came against the Saints. The loudest cheer from the small crowd came when Moore, an undrafted rookie, entered the game. He was 8-for-14 for 66 yards and an interception.
The Panthers took a 3-0 first-quarter lead on John Kasay's 45-yard field goal after a 41-yard pass interference penalty on Jason David.
Brees' 1-yard fade pass to Lance Moore midway through the second quarter gave the Saints the lead, and Olindo Mare's 46-yard field goal made it 10-3.
Kasay kicked a 29-yard field goal to cut the halftime deficit to 10-6, but not before fans started chanted "We want Moore."