Tag Archives: Graham Gano

Carolina Panthers win streak ends; Saints rip Cats 31-13

NEW ORLEANS  –  Advantage, New Orleans. Yes, the Carolina Panthers will get their shot at redemption on Dec. 22 in Charlotte, but for now, the Saints are one game up on the Cats in the NFC South race. After getting off to a 6-0 lead, the Panthers could do nothing right. They were ripped apart by Saints quarterback Drew Brees. The Panthers defensive backfield was exposed and Saints defensive coach Rob Ryan attacked the Panthers offensive in so many ways the visitors were unable to mount any kind of attack.

Panthers center Ryan Kalil said offensively, not being able to convert their two red zone opportunities into touchdowns made the Cats one-dimensional when they fell behind. That limited the way the Panthers could play…something they had not experienced in nine weeks.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees carved up the Carolina Panthers defense on Sunday, leading his team to a 31-13 win. (Photo: David Grunfeld, NOLA.com)
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees carved up the Carolina Panthers defense on Sunday, leading his team to a 31-13 win. (Photo: David Grunfeld, NOLA.com)

On the other side of the ball, Brees bounced back from a rough outing last week to carve up the Carolina Panthers’ secondary Sunday, passing for 313 yards and four touchdowns in the Saints’ 31-13 win before a raucous crowd of 73,000-plus at the Superdome.

The loss snapped a franchise-record, eight-game win streak for the Panthers (9-4), who dropped a game behind New Orleans (10-3) in the race for first place in the NFC South. The Panthers’ last loss had been a 22-6 defeat at Arizona on Oct. 6. Carolina fell a game short of matching Kansas City’s nine-game streak for the longest this season.

But the Panthers allowed Brees to get in a rhythm, failing to get any pressure on him during a second quarter when Brees threw three touchdowns to take control of the game. That’s when the game was really decided. The Saints scored touchdowns on consecutive drives of 80, 86 and 76 yards and the Panthers did nothing.

Brees completed 30 of 42 passes and became the fifth quarterback to surpass 50,000 career passing yards, joining Brett Favre, Dan Marino, John Elway and Peyton Manning.

The 31 points were the most allowed by the Panthers’ second-ranked defense since a 44-38 win at New Orleans in Week 17 last season. But that game came against a Saints’ defense that gave up more yards than any team in NFL history.

Rivera said the defensive backs allowed the Saints’ receivers too many clean releases off the line of scrimmage.

Marques Colston caught nine passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns, while tight end Jimmy Graham added six catches for 58 yards and two scores.

Carolina had no plays of 20 yards or more, compared to six for the Saints. New Orleans improved to 7-0 at home, and is 8-1 in ‘Sunday Night Football’ games.

So…what really happened? Personally, I was not surprised the Saints won. I was surprised at the lack of fight the Panthers put up offensively. Brees is going to attack any defense…you know that. But Sunday night, in front of a national television audience, the Panthers weaknesses were totally exposed.

Brandon LaFell dropped a first-down pass when Carolina was still in the game. Cam Newton started well but lost his way, repeatedly holding the ball and allowing the New Orleans rush to take him down. Defensively, the front four for Carolina was inept. Were the Saints linemen holding a bit? It happens. But this unit plus the linebackers, is proud. They are the ones who put pressure on the other guys. Not Sunday night. Brees had time to find open receivers all night…and yes, they were open all night. Brees threw 41 passes before he was sacked. That’s because the Cats began to blitz in the third quarter. Why they didn’t do that in the first half is a mystery. The lesson here – do not give Drew Brees time to throw. Especially if your defensive backfield, the so-called “Legion of Whom,” is what it is.

Carolina Panthers kicker Graham Gano with one of his two first quarter field goals. Unfortunately, they resulted because the Panthers were not able to turn the red zone opportunities into touchdowns. (Photo: David T. Foster III, Charlotte Observer)
Carolina Panthers kicker Graham Gano with one of his two first quarter field goals. Unfortunately, they resulted because the Panthers were not able to turn the red zone opportunities into touchdowns. (Photo: David T. Foster III, Charlotte Observer)

The Panthers made mistakes, committed poorly timed penalties and came undone. The Panthers racked up four defensive penalties in the second quarter, three of which were credited to the secondary – holding on cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, pass interference on cornerback Drayton Florence and pass interference on safety Mike Mitchell. That’s one way to give up 31 points in a quarter.

Two weeks ago Mitchell called the New Orleans quarterback “soft,” and Brees responded with vintage play against the Panthers that exposed Mitchell and the entire Carolina secondary.

Next week the Panthers get the New York Jets at home. The Jets have won one road game all season, against Atlanta in early October. But for a bad team they’ve beaten good teams. They beat New England in October and they beat New Orleans in November. Is it the biggest game of the year? Coach Rivera says your next game is always the biggest of the year, so, yes…it is. Time to get well…time to work on the mistakes from the Saints game…time to change a few schemes to also prepare for the following week’s game against the Saints.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING:

Panthers offensive tackle Jordan Gross:  “We’re 9-4. The sky isn’t falling. We’d just gotten used to winning, eight weeks in a row now. We wanted to win. We prepared well. We just didn’t play well. But we know we’ve got them at home in two weeks. That being said, we can’t look past the Jets (next week) because they’re going to be tough.”

Gross on what he learned from the game:  “Some tough love and getting hit in the mouth might not be the worst thing in the world for us now moving forward. These games are going to get bigger and bigger, and this is a bit of a reality check for us.”

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton runs to escape from New Orleans Saints defensive lineman Tyrunn Walker during the Cats' 31-13 loss at the Superdome. (Photo: David T. Foster III, Charlotte Observer)
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton runs to escape from New Orleans Saints defensive lineman Tyrunn Walker during the Cats’ 31-13 loss at the Superdome. (Photo: David T. Foster III, Charlotte Observer)

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton:  “We played a great team today, a playoff caliber team, and it’s a great measuring stick of who we are and where we want to go.”

Newton on the team’s failure to score touchdowns after getting into the red zone twice in the first quarter:  “Field goals aren’t going to cut it. We know that as an offense.”

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera:  “The attitude changed coming in at halftime, figuring what we tried to do earlier didn’t work.  So we tried to do something different, tried to get after them and create some situations.”

Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera had little to smile about during Sunday's loss to New Orleans. (Photo: David T. Foster III, Charlotte Observer)
Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera had little to smile about during Sunday’s loss to New Orleans. (Photo: David T. Foster III, Charlotte Observer)

Rivera talked about the defensive backfield and what happened: “There were some issues that did come up that we’ve got to be better with, whether it’s coverage or putting them in position to have better success.”

Rivera on his feelings after the loss:  “I’m surprised and I’m disappointed. Not good enough.”

Panthers center Ryan Kalil on the problems the Cats had offensively on their first two series, settling for two field goals after being in the red zone:  “We just didn’t finish when we got in the red zone, didn’t stop them on defense, We got behind and became one-dimensional. You get behind and start trying to play catch-up, and that’s not where we’re at our best.”

Panthers defensive tackle Greg Hardy, who has been a beast during the 8-game win streak:  “I feel like I let these guys down.  I didn’t get to the quarterback today. I didn’t have any tackles.”

Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn reflected on the game:  “We just didn’t execute well. We had some good defenses called, we just didn’t execute and get off the field. It wasn’t coverage breakdowns, it’s just that everybody’s got to hold themselves accountable and be in the right spots.”
Panthers safety Mike Mitchell, who was schooled by Brees: “They did a good job. We just didn’t play well enough to win. I don’t think they did anything to surprise us or shock us. It was really more we just didn’t execute our game plan.”
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Carolina Panthers win 5th straight – What they’re saying

For those of you who enjoy physical, defensive football, your new favorite team is the Carolina Panthers. Going into Sunday’s game in San Francisco (6-3), facing a formidable challenge, the Panthers (6-3) defense was suffocating. They held the 49ers to 9 points and gave up just four yards in the fourth quarter. Oh, and the Carolina offense was good enough to score just enough points, as Graham Gano made up for his first missed try of the season by nailing a 53-yard field goal with 10:05 remaining in the game, to help the Panthers win 10-9.

The game was a throwback, which was perfect, considering this is the last season the Niners will play in Candlestick Park before moving to their new luxury stadium in Santa Clara. The old-timers would have loved this knock-down, drag-out fight…and that’s what it was. The Niners could do very little on offense. They managed three field goals before the Panthers could get on the board just before the end of the first half.

Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams (34) scored the game's only touchdown at San Francisco.
Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams (34) scored the game’s only touchdown at San Francisco.

Trailing 9-0 late in the second quarter, Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams scored the game’s only touchdown on a vintage cutback run, bouncing off one tackler for a 27-yard touchdown. In a game where yards and points were at a premium, Williams not only scored the lone touchdown of the game, but that play was the only one that went over 20 yards from the line of scrimmage for either team.

The game represents the biggest win in head coach Ron Rivera’s three years. Earlier this season, the coach was concerned about the Panthers being relevant…now, he wants them to stay relevant.

The Panthers offense was sloppy in the first half of the game, losing two turnovers and dropping an interception, but it was the defense that starred on Sunday. Facing a very potent 49ers quarterback (Colin Kaepernick) and one of the league’s top running backs (Frank Gore), the defense did not allow a touchdown to be scored, forcing the Niners to settle for three field goals.

Carolina Panthers punt returner/wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. looks to gain more yardage on this punt from would-be tackler Andy Lee (4)
Carolina Panthers punt returner/wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. returned to play against his former team on Sunday. On this punt, he looks to gain more yardage on this punt from would-be tackler Andy Lee (4)

Ted Ginn, Jr., whom the Panthers picked up from the 49ers this season, wanted to make his presence known. He did that. Ginn caught two passes for 19 yards, and returned three punts for 65 yards. His statement catch was a third down conversion in the fourth quarter – an 11-yard pass from Cam Newton at the San Francisco 49 for a first down. He dragged his back foot while his motion sent him slowly out of bounds. He stood there at the San Francisco sideline, staring at 49ers safety Bubba Ventrone.

His punt returns included a second-quarter return of 19 yards to the Carolina 43, but the drive stalled. In the fourth quarter, his 25-yard return went to the San Francisco 44. Seven plays later, Carolina had its first lead of the game, on a 53-yard field goal by Gano.

Defensively, the key was to stop the 49ers on third down and not let them extend drives. Job well done, Panthers. They held the Niners, who entered the game with a conversion percentage of 40.2, to 15.4 percent on third downs. Not allowing Kaepernick to use his legs to extend plays certainly was a key. The six sacks by the Panthers defense (second-most in a game this season) had to affect Kaepernick’s decision-making. The sensational quarterback was less than that Sunday, as the Panthers held him to just 91 yards passing and grabbed a timely interception to ice the game.

Feel good about this one, Panthers, but know you have another tough game coming up Monday night. In prime-time, under the lights…New England (7-2 and coming off a bye) visits Bank of America Stadium in a game that has been sold out for weeks. The Panthers look to avenge some bad losses to the Pats, including a 38-6 loss in 2001 that ended a 1-15 season and, of course, the 32-29 loss in the 2003 Super Bowl.

(All photos courtesy Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer)

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING:

Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson, who had 1.5 of the unit’s six sacks on Colin Kaepernick: “Everybody was on the same page. When everybody is on the same page, buying into the scheme, you’re going to end up being successful. It’s all about being a team and playing as one. We’ve always got each others’ backs, so I’m always trying to pick them up on that side of the ball when things don’t go right, and that’s what they do for me when I need it. That’s a good thing, because if we’re not looking out for each other, no one is.”

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera on how he has changed his coaching style:“My first two years I did everything by The Book. Punt the ball, kick field goals, stuff like that — bypassing opportunities to go for it on fourth down. I looked at certain situations, certain circumstances, and the one that got me was Buffalo. One of the things we could’ve done is go for it on fourth down, and we didn’t. I’ve thought about that ever since, and part of my maturing as a coach is understanding certain situations and circumstances and going with it.”

“One of the biggest things I know (defensive coordinator) Sean (McDermott) and them emphasized was getting them in third-and-long or as long as possible and putting a lot of pressure on them. We felt pretty good about the pass rush. It worked to what we wanted to do. I understand Vernon Davis went out and that was one of those things that helped us in that situation. You lose a weapon, especially of his caliber, it’s tough.”

“This was big. We’re going to enjoy it. It’s going to make the flight home a lot easier. We look forward to getting back to work next week.”

Carolina Panthers cornerback Drayton Florence (29) intercepted this Colin Kaepernick pass late in the fourth quarter to ice the victory for the visitors.
Carolina Panthers cornerback Drayton Florence (29) intercepted this Colin Kaepernick pass late in the fourth quarter to ice the victory for the visitors.

Panthers cornerback Drayton Florence, who sealed the outcome with an interception at the San Francisco 42 with 23 seconds left to play: “We know that now we’re going to get everybody’s best. When you win [five] in a row, that opens people’s eyes. They see the film. They see how we play. We have the second-ranked rush defense and scoring defense. That’s big. We’re not under the radar anymore.”

“Defending NFC champions, 5 1/2 hour flight, one of the best running backs (in Frank Gore), the best running quarterback in the league, one of the best defenses in the league, and we come in, 10-9 ballgame, a slugfest. We’ve just got to keep preparing every week. We’re going to get everybody’s best shot from here on out.”

Panthers free safety Mike Mitchell: “We heard all the naysayers say we hadn’t played anybody and blah, blah, blah. Well, we played somebody today on the road in their place, and beat them. So they shouldn’t have too much to say. We’re relevant. We’re here.”

“We had a great game plan, and really we just played Panther defense. We had a good idea what they were going to be about and we just took those things away. Our coaches did a great job preparing us. We were locked in on everything they were doing.”

Carolina Panthers kicker Graham Gano hit this 53-yard field goal during the fourth quarter that led to a 10-9 Panthers win.
Carolina Panthers kicker Graham Gano hit this 53-yard field goal during the fourth quarter that led to a 10-9 Panthers win.

Panthers kicker Graham Gano, who kicked a few extra balls following his first miss of the season: “I was so angry up until the ball left my foot on the 53-yarder. I always want another opportunity after a miss.”

Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams on how tough the game was: “We knew it was going to be one of those dogfights because they had a really good defense. I knew we had a really good defense. Coming into this game, we said the first team to get to 14 was going to win. Fortunately for us, it only took 10.”

Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith: “I can say with confidence, if you’re a fan of football, you look at Candlestick, you look at the history, very few games that are relevant and mean something, you never come out with a blow out.”

San Francisco head coach John Harbaugh: “Moving the ball wasn’t coming easy for us. I thought there were plays to be made, and (Kaepernick) made some really good ones. And we put all put our fingerprints on that. It’s not a good feeling when you don’t prevail, especially when you had multiple chances to get it done.”

Carolina Panthers safety Mike Mitchell (21) and defensive end Charles Johnson (95) combine to make this sack on San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. This was one of six sacks recorded by the Panthers defense.
Carolina Panthers safety Mike Mitchell (21) and defensive end Charles Johnson (95) combine to make this sack on San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. This was one of six sacks recorded by the Panthers defense.

San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick: “They didn’t surprise us at all. We didn’t execute.”