The Saints move on to play at Minnesota next Sunday.
The Saints were able to bleed the Panthers of their timeouts on the drive, but after the two-minute warning, Brees' desperate pass was intercepted downfield at the 31-yard line by Carolina strong safety Mike Adams.
Carolina (11-6) almost prevented New Orleans from staying alive in the postseason, turning a late interception of quarterback Drew Brees into a last-ditch effort to steal a victory on the road after twice losing to the Saints in the regular season. It was the second-longest scoring play of Ginn's career. The offense had been forced to live on the arm of Drew Brees, and although it worked well, the Panthers still kept New Orleans' offense one-dimensional throughout the game.
Cam Newton rebounded after on his worst performances of the season in Week 17, finishing Sunday's contest 24-of-40 for 349 passing yards, two touchdowns and a 105.1 passer rating.
"I wish we could bring like 10 fans right in the middle of the field and have them hear what happens", Payton said of the lift their noise gives his team.
"There's a stress level, when you're dealing with it all the time (as an opposing offence) on the other side of the ball. I think what we've shown offensively is we have a lot of ways to be effective, a lot of weapons to spread the ball around".
The Saints (11-5) defeated the Panthers 34-13 in Week 3 and 31-21 in Week 13.
-Football's a amusing game, example No. 13,424: Graham Gano missed a 25-yard field goal, his first miss under 30 yards in 53 attempts. The Saints Wil Lutz returned the favor with a 57-yard field goal before Carolina finally capitalized on a trip to the red zone after four failed attempts, when Newton hit tight end Greg Olson for a 14-yard touchdown that cut the lead to 24-19 early in the fourth quarter.
Newton then struggled to get to his feet and collapsed to the turf while trying to jog to the sidelines. Newton tried to jog to the sideline, but dropped to both knees about 10 yards away from the Carolina bench.
B- Linebackers: This group did a better job of tackling on running backs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram than in the Week 13 loss at New Orleans. But although Cam Newton led the Panthers to the shadow of the end zone and what would have been a last-second, go-ahead touchdown, he effectively ended the game flat on his back, the victim of a voracious Saints defense.
The Saints then took over, and Brees found Ginn for the touchdown.
But the problem for New Orleans is possible overconfidence, while human nature says Carolina will be motivated. Newton was sacked on fourth down with five seconds left to seal the outcome.
"Yeah, we call their play 'dagger, '" said Panthers coach Ron Rivera after the game. "It would be nice to have the explanation".
Carolina heads home with a final record of 11-6, and through 23 seasons, the franchise record - including the postseason - is 192-192-1.
It was a day that belonged to the Saints, who never trailed.
The Saints lost starting left guard Andrus Peat to injury early in the second quarter. But they gave a spirited, cohesive effort. Still, they did put themselves in a tough position to begin with.