Photo: Butch Dill/AP

The Saints beat the Panthers for the third time this season, 31-26, to advance to the next round of the playoffs. And after some truly ugly play from the QBs in the early Bills-Jaguars game, Drew Brees put on a show and served as the antidote. On 23-of-33 passing, Brees had an extremely efficient 376 yards to go with his two touchdowns.

The Saints didn’t exactly dominate, but out of both teams, Brees was the man most in control of the game. He set the tone early with an 80-yard first-quarter bomb to Ted Ginn, which gave the Saints a lead they never relinquished.

And Brees continued to help the Saints score even while getting absolutely no help from his running game, which gained a total of just 41 yards. And as the Saints tried to ice the game, Brees made a beautiful throw on third down to Michael Thomas to keep his team in possession. That drive eventually ended in the QB’s only interception of the game, but that only came on a strange fourth-down conversion attempt, and it was honestly as good as a bad punt.

The Panthers made it close, and with almost no supporting cast, a beat-up Cam Newton did his best to win with 386 total yards of his own. But the Saints’ defense wouldn’t break, sacking Cam on fourth down in New Orleans territory to end the game. Because of that—and, of course, Drew Brees—the Saints are heading to Minnesota next week, where they’ll look to avenge a 29-19 Week One loss.