Keys to the Game: Panthers vs. Saints

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Offense

Dec 2, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) during the second half against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. Seattle defeated New Orleans 34-7. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Fact. The Carolina Panthers defense has not surrendered more than 23 points in any game this season, and that was to: The Buffalo Bills. In fact, the Panthers defense has only gave up 20+ points twice this season, with that other game going to the Patriots.

Yes, this defense is a concern. They’re among the Top 10 in the league (nearly Top 5) in most categories. The big ones that stand out? The Panthers are 2nd in the NFL in opponents rushing yards (80.3 yards/game), and 6th in the NFL in opponents passing yards (209.6 yards/game). They’re also 2nd in the league with 38 sacks this season (Saints are T-3rd with 37).

So, how do the Saints attack?

Well, let’s start here.

I have to ask, but where is Lance Moore & Kenny Stills? Both of these guys have fallen off the face of the Saints offense. I don’t say this to be mean, but the last time Lance Moore did much of anything, it was against the Jets (6-70), and Stills last burst was against the Cowboys (3-75-TD). Both of these guys have to step up, and Brees needs to look for them too.

Everyone knows that Colston & Graham are the huge focal points in the passing game aside from Sproles/Thomas, and Brees was not even allowed to take many shots downfield against the Seahawks, and he never completed a pass over 15 yards on the night.

As for the offense, they just have to get some tempo going. There were way too many 3-and-outs on Monday, and while the Saints didn’t exactly abandon the run, they favored the pass a lot more. Let’s also not forget how much the personnel changed in between plays, and how that caused some extra confusion. Pierre Thomas, who had been red-hot up until the Seahawks game, touched the ball only eight times on Monday. That’s barely half of what his normal average is.  The Saints also struggled, like the have in previous road games, with clock management and mental errors.

Drew & the offense have to get points on the first couple of drives. Period. It doesn’t matter how, who, or what. Getting off to such a poor start on Monday ended up being one of the many Saints’ downfalls.

What To Watch For: Jimmy Graham. In both games last season, Graham was targeted 29 times. He hauled in just over half of those, 16 receptions (Week 2 – 7, Week 16 – 9). In the first game, he caught 7-71-TD, and in the second game, he caught 9-115-TD. This season, the Panthers are excellent against Tight Ends. In fact, they have not allowed a single 100-yard game to a tight end this season. Yup, that includes Rob Gronkowski (5-59-TD), Vernon Davis (1-2), & Tony Gonzalez (6-81-TD).

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Tags: Cam Newton Drew Brees NFL 2013 Rob Ryan Ron Rivera Sean Payton Sunday Night Football Week 14 Matchups: Panthers Vs. Saints

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