DeAngelo Williams rushed for a season-high 210 yards and two touchdowns and Mike Tolbert scored on three 1-yard runs as visiting Carolina ended the season with its first four-game win streak since 2008.
Cam Newton passed for 248 yards for the Panthers, who racked up season highs for points and total yards (530). The Saints surpassed a dubious NFL record by allowing 7,042 total yards this season.
Drew Brees passed for 396 yards and four touchdowns - becoming the first player in NFL history with three 5,000-yard seasons and the first with more than 15,000 passing yards in a three-year span - and Lance Moore (four catches, 121 yards) and Jimmy Graham (nine catches, 115 yards) put up big numbers.
As has been the case all season, though, the Saints' defense didn't do enough. After Brees' second touchdown pass - a 19-yard strike to Jimmy Graham - gave New Orleans a 24-13 lead with 10:49 left in the third quarter, the Panthers reeled off 28 consecutive points to take control.
Williams scored on runs of 54 and 12 yards and also set up another score with a season-long 65-yard scamper in his only 100-yard game of the season.
GAME NOTEBOOK: The Saints allowed 500 yards or more in four games this season. … Carolina's two highest-scoring outputs of the season game against New Orleans. It won the first meeting 35-27 in Week 2. … Brees is responsible for three of the six 5,000-yard passing seasons in NFL history.