CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Tony Jones Jr. scored two touchdowns, rookie Blake Grupe scored two field goals and the New Orleans Saints beat the Carolina Panthers 20-17 Monday night, improving to 2- 0 for the first time since 2013.
Jones replaced the injured Jamaal Williams late in the first half and ran for 34 yards on 12 carries.
The Saints defense did the rest, limiting Panthers rookie Bryce Young to 153 passing yards in his home debut.
New Orleans held Carolina (0-2) to 239 yards and sacked Young, the top pick in the draft, four times.
The Saints nearly went two complete games without allowing a touchdown before giving up a 3-yard toss from Young to Adam Thielen with 1:16 left in the game.
Young’s 2-point conversion pass to Thielen put the Panthers back within three, but the Saints recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.
Derek Carr, who threw for 305 yards in the Saints’ Week 1 win over Tennessee, struggled early.
He had a very bad interception in triple coverage and missed several other open receivers as the Saints limped into the locker room at halftime with a 6-3 lead.
But Carr improved in the second half.
He found Chris Olave, who made a one-handed dive down the left sideline late in the third quarter for a 42-yard gain.
This allowed Jones to score a 2-yard touchdown run to give the Saints a 13-6 lead.
Olave had another short grab leading to Jones’ second TD with about three minutes left.
Carr finished with 228 passing yards and just one pick.
The Saints tied with undefeated Atlanta and Tampa Bay atop the NFC South, while the Panthers fell into an early hole.
Young spent much of the evening under pressure as the offensive line struggled. Carolina couldn’t do much in the running game; Miles Sanders was limited to 43 yards rushing.
The Panthers’ offensive night was marred by mistakes, penalties and mental errors.
In the third quarter, the Panthers brought in Young’s replacement, Andy Dalton, likely to run a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-inches.
But before Dalton could take his first snap of the season, guard Cade Mays jumped offside.
Eddy Pineiro bailed out the offense with a 54-yard field goal, one of his three on the evening.
The Panthers had a chance to tie the game just before halftime as they faced third-and-6 at the Saints 18, but Carl Granderson sacked Young and forced a fumble that Paulson Adaebo recovered.