Tag Archives: New Orleans Saints

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.”

Carolina Panthers beat Saints in home opener, 35-27

Charlotte, NC – The Carolina Panthers knew Sunday’s game against NFC South division rival New Orleans was a huge one.Coming off a disappointing offensive effort in their season opener at Tampa, the Panthers won a must-win game before 72,879 fans at Bank of America Stadium.

“I said to the guys before the game that this was a must win, and it really was,” offensive tackle Jordan Gross said. “We couldn’t go 0-2 to start this season off and lose at home, and lose to the Saints again. Their team has been successful the past few seasons. To set a new standard around here we had to beat them.”

Last week, the running game was anemic in Tampa. This week, the Panthers had a 2-to-1, run-pass ratio against the Saints, with 41 rushes and 20 passes. Each member of the Panthers’  backfield scored a touchdown.

Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart ran for 51 yards against New Orleans on Sunday.

“We knew that we had to pick it up. Last week wasn’t good enough,” said fullback Mike Tolbert, who scored his first touchdown as a Panther on a 2-yard run. “Coach knew that we needed the ball a little bit more, and he gave it to us. He gave us our shot, and we made it happen.”

So did the Panthers’ defense.

Carolina Panthers defensive end Frank Alexander hurried New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees several times and batted this pass attempt down.

Last season, half of their defensive starters were out in Week 17 when New Orleans destroyed the Cats, 45-17. In that game, the Saints were able to put up 617 yards. Several players were upset that the Saints kept quarterback Drew Breese, running back Darren Sproles and tight end Jimmy Graham in the game to go after individual records

“We weren’t a very good team Week 17 last year. I don’t really talk about last year very often,” Gross said. “But that being said, I was glad to beat them. The Saints have kind of been at the top for a while. It’s fun to beat those guys.”

Carolina Panthers safety Charles Godfrey intercepts New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees on Sunday.

This time, it was different…very different.  Safety Charles Godfrey’s interception got the Panther going…and linebacker Jon Beason ended the Saints’ comeback hopes. With the Saints at their 29 with 31 seconds left, Beason – playing deep middle – cheated toward Graham’s side and Brees never saw him.

“It’s hard to get an interception on Drew. He’s so good. He’s going to make those unbelievable passes,” Beason said. “To get a chance to even get a hand on the ball is big. So a pick, I just said to myself when I caught it, ‘Finally.’ ”

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton ran for a personal-best 71 yards and completed 14 of 20 passes for 253 yards and a touchdown, and finished with a quarterback rating of 129.2.

Offensively, the Panthers made the home crowd  very happy. Quarterback Cam Newton had a great day, completing 14 of 20 passes for 253 yards and a touchdown, and ended up with a quarterback rating of 129.2. Additionally, he rushed 13 times for 71 yards, a personal high. One reason for the great numbers…the zone read offense.

Newton said the zone read pulled the linebackers closer to the line of scrimmage, opening the Panthers’ play-action passing game. “You do read option, read option, read option and get them to play seven and eight in the box, and you’ve got so many variations of plays and passes you can run off of it,” Newton said. “So many teams are doing it now, and with good execution it’s going to be successful.”

The Redskins ran the zone read during a 40-32 win at New Orleans in Week 1, rolling up 459 total yards behind rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III.  The Panthers beat that…with 463 total yards. And…the Saints also rolled up some impressive yardage numbers – 486 – but the final numbers that counted were on the scoreboard.

Carolina Panthers receiver Brandon LaFell had a breakout day Sunday against the Saints.

The breakout star of the game, however, was receiver Brandon LaFell. He had a team-high six receptions for 90 yards and spiced it with a 25-yard run that LaFell felt should have gone another 33 yards to the end zone had he not gotten “happy feet.”

Coach Ron Rivera came over to LaFell’s locker after the game and held a handshake for an extra few seconds. “Good game,” Rivera said.

“Thanks,” came LaFell’s reply.

LaFell had an outstanding training camp and has benefitted from the extra work he put in prior to the season.

“Man, it felt great today. We got out there and got into a rhythm,” LaFell said. “Cam found me a lot today. We just got out there and made plays. I got real confident early because I kept getting the ball and I kept continuing to roll.

“With Steve (Smith) pulling double teams and I’m getting one-on-ones, I’ve got the biggest smile on my face in the stadium. That’s going to happen a lot this year. I always tell Smitty I go off how you go.”

LaFell remained humble despite having a breakout game. For instance, he did not ask Newton to look for him more often.

“I don’t say nothing to Cam because I’d hate to be one of those guys fussing about the ball and he starts forcing the ball my way and bad stuff starts to happen,” LaFell said. “I just do my job, go run routes and get open.”

Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith went 66 yards on this catch. He and Brandon LaFell have the potential to be one of the top receiving duos in the league.

Rivera saw Sunday what he and offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski envisioned with Smith and LaFell on the outside. Smith is in his 12th NFL season, LaFell two games into his third season.

“Brandon is developing into a fine receiver,” Rivera said. “He showed what he is capable of and those types of plays that he makes, the consistency by which he is making them, is really helping us. He really did a nice job.”

For LaFell, who attended Louisiana State, it was an especially satisfying Sunday.

“All (Saturday) and all (Sunday) morning, I’m getting text messages from roommates and old friends I went to college with (saying) the Saints are going to whoop y’all. They said we’re pulling for you but we’re pulling for the Saints,” LaFell said.

Panthers’ wide receiver Steve Smith said the reason LaFell has become so valuable is simple. “Ever since Moose (Muhsin Muhammad) retired and also with Ricky (Proehl) retiring, we’ve been looking for a guy to step in and step up. I think Brandon has done that,” Smith said.

“He’s grown and he’s improving. … He’s been doing a great job. He pushes me. I push him.”

LaFell and Smith took advantage of the Saints’ coverage, getting open and combining for 194 receiving yards.

“(LaFell) had a great game. It seemed like he had a ton of big plays,” tight end Greg Olsen said. “We’ve always said on any given day it could be a lot of different guys. We can spread the ball around. Today was kind of a collective effort. Brandon did a great job. Steve always does a great job. It was a good all-around performance.”

And with that, the Panthers ended a four-game losing streak against the Saints. New Orleans has been the class of the division recently, but with the fallout from Bountygate (loss of coaches and players), Smith suggested there could be a changing of the guard in the division.

“Times change,” Smith said. “We’ve got to play them again, so it makes no sense to act like we’ve just won the world championship or we’re going to the playoffs. It’s one game. One game to learn from. One game to say, ‘Good job.’ But we have to move on and move on really quickly.”

Really quickly…like in four days when the Panthers host the defending Super Bowl champions, the New York Giants, on Thursday night.