Panthers vs. Saints Review: What We Learned
Perhaps the New Orleans Saints aren’t who we thought they were. Here’s to looking at you, Dennis Green. But really, these Saints aren’t your normal Saints. Something is different. They have all the same players that trounced our Carolina Panthers en route to a season sweep in 2011, but there’s something in the air that has you knowing they’re not an elite squad anymore. Not right now, anyways.
That feeling is at least partially responsible for the Panthers’ awesome 35-27 win over the Saints on Sunday, as Cam Newton and co. emerged from their week one slumber to dismantle New Orleans at every end to escape the dreaded 0-2 hole. The Saints wouldn’t be so lucky, and now the NFC South is suddenly wide open for the taking.
But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s backtrack and see what we can come away with from this explosive showdown:
1. Cam Newton is Back
Newton forced the issue a bit too much in week one and the Panthers abandoned the ground game early. In week two, they stuck with it and it really paid off. Newton bounced back in a huge way, as he completed 14-of-20 passes for 253 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. He did lose a fumble, but his 71 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown arguably made up for it. His full stat line is impressive, no doubt, but the most impressive aspect has to be his gaudy 12.7 yards per attempt. It’s also one thing to get Newton back on a high level in week two, but for it to happen versus the Saints with the team’s back against the wall; that just shows his character and talent shining through.
2. So is the Panthers’ Rushing Attack
After a horrendous week one, the Carolina Panthers got their groove back in week two and piled on the rushing yards. Obviously Newton went to work with a career high 71 yards on the ground, but the best part was how DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert all got in the mix. All three running backs found their way into the end-zone one way or another, while D-Will and J-Stew both averaged over 4.6 yards per carry. It was nice to have the ground game back on track.
3. Too Little, Too Late Again For Brees and Saints
Brees and the Saints gave the Panthers a run for their money late in the game, just as they did against the Redskins a week ago. Unfortunately for them, it was once again not enough, as they lost by eight points for the second game in a row. The Saints clearly have issues, as they are simply inefficient on offense and really just can’t get much-needed stops when they count on defense. It’s beyond clear that they miss head coach Sean Payton, and I’d be somewhat surprised if they finish above .500 in 2012.
4. Charles Godfrey Shines
Carolina’s star safety was a force in this contest from the very beginning, as he picked off a Drew Brees pass and took it nine yards to the house for an early 7-0 lead, and went on to record a pass deflection, along with 11 tackles. His 11 tackles led all defensive players in the game, and his early pick set the tone for the game.
5. Return of Darren Sproles
On the bright side for the Saints, they did find a way to get a lot out of speedy running back Darren Sproles this week, as he racked up a crazy 13 catches for 128 receiving yards, while also recording another 82 yards off of kick and punt returns. I still find it fairly alarming that Sproles still doesn’t have a single carry through two games, however.
In that same breath, it was hard to watch the Panthers’ run defense get absolutely gashed by the Saints at times. They gave up 110 yards on the ground to Pierre Thomas, although they held Mark Ingram to only 53 yards off of 16 carries. Still, if New Orleans would have committed to the run a little more, it may have helped them in the end. They ended up throwing the ball a whopping 49 times (29 more times than Carolina).