Danny Wuerffel, given a chance to start when Billy Joe Hobert suffered a season-ending injury last week, said his own experience and improvement by his teammates enabled him to lead the New Orleans Saints to a 19-14 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
“You grow out of being a rookie through experience,” Wuerffel said after shaking off constant pressure from the Panthers (0-2) to lead the Saints to their first 2-0 start since 1993.
Wuerffel, sacked seven times by the Panthers last season in his NFL debut, found the going almost as rough this time in getting sacked six times.
But the pressure did not rattle the 1996 Heisman Trophy winner this time as he completed 13 of 18 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 40 yards in dodging Carolina defenders.
“It was obvious that they wanted to rattle Danny,” center Jerry Fontenot said. “But he stood tough and didn’t crack. He found receivers or holes when he needed them and made things happen.”
The Saints took a 7-0 lead less than a minute into the game as Wuerffel threw a 64-yard touchdown pass to Sean Dawkins, who had five catches for 110 yards. In Wuerffel’s previous two starts, the Saints did not score.
Doug Brien also kicked field goals of 46 and 56 yards for the Saints, while Ray Zellars scored the decisive touchdown on a with 9:15 left on a 15-yard run.
“We’re self-destructing defensively,” Carolina cornerback Rod Smith said. “Each game comes down to three or four plays that separate the winners from the losers. We lost those plays and then we lost the game.”