Payton made the bold decision to go for it on fourth-and-2 from Carolina’s 47-yard line after the two-minute warning, with the Saints protecting that precarious five-point lead.
It didn’t work out -- quarterback Drew Brees threw an interception (which was a better result than an incomplete pass, actually). And the Saints had to sweat out Carolina’s final drive before defensive end Cameron Jordan and the Saints' defense ultimately sealed the deal.
"Gonna win the game, you know, gonna win the game,” Payton said of his decision, which followed the Saints' trying to draw Carolina offside first before they called a timeout to think it over. “I was talking to Drew really about, ‘We can punt there and play with a little longer field position, with no timeouts for them.’ And yet, we felt we had a call. We tried to get [receiver] Mike Thomas. They did a good job in coverage, and they made a play.
“Fortunately, it ended up being intercepted. But that’s part of it. We were gonna try to win the game on that play.”
“He said, ‘Do you want to go for it or punt?’” Brees recalled. “I said, ‘Do you have a play you like?’ And he said, ‘Yeah.’ So I said, ‘Let’s go for it.’ End of discussion.”
Brees couldn’t immediately find an open receiver. He then rolled out to avoid pressure and eventually decided to just loft the ball up into a crowd and hope for a few possible positive outcomes.
"Don't throw a pick that they can return for a touchdown, but if there's guys in a bunch, hey, maybe you get a [pass interference], maybe your guy goes up and makes a play,” Brees said. “That's a ball that has to be thrown."
Payton was even more fortunate that his defense ultimately delivered, though it was frightening for a few plays, as Cam Newton quickly marched the Panthers down to New Orleans’ 21-yard line with 46 seconds left. But cornerback Marshon Lattimore broke up a deep pass on the next play. And Jordan saved the day with an incredible bull rush that knocked two blockers out of the way en route to hitting Newton and forcing an intentional-grounding penalty.
The Saints’ defense was far from perfect on Sunday. But Payton’s call was undoubtedly one that came with a trust built up throughout the season that playmakers such as Lattimore and Jordan might bail him out if needed.