New Orleans took the lead with 6:37 left after Brees drove his team 97 yards in 11 plays, connecting on a 5-yard pass to tight end Jimmy Graham on a jump ball in the end zone. Graham was huge on the drive, catching three passes for 62 yards, including a 46-yard reception.
The Panthers failed to move the ball on the next possession, and Rivera decided to punt on fourth-and-7 with two minutes left.
Some fans booed the move, but "Riverboat Ron" said he had faith in his defense.
Carolina led 7-6 at halftime despite being limited to 97 yards on offense. During one stretch, the Panthers had four straight three-and-outs, combining for 1 yard.
But Davis, who had 14 tackles, helped turn the momentum with Carolina trailing 6-0 later in the first half.
Davis, who became the first active player selected to hit the "Keep Pounding" drum before the game, made a leaping interception of Brees on a third-down pass.
On the following play, DeAngelo Williams broke free up the middle for a 43-yard touchdown to give the Panthers a 7-6 lead with 1:54 left in the half.
"I talked about 'Keep Pounding' before the game and whole meaning of it and what it stands for," Davis said. "It showed up today. I reminded them what it said. I've embraced it and I understand what it means."
NOTES: Smith said trainers told him he injured a knee ligament and he will need an MRI on Monday. He injured the knee in the first quarter then tried to return in the second but couldn't run on it. "They said it's nothing, but my knee doesn't feel like nothing," Smith said. ... The Saints lost safety Kenny Vaccaro for the game in the second quarter when he was carted off with a left lower leg injury.
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