Did the Saints Learn Their Lesson Against the Seahawks?
Russell Wilson shredded the Saints defense with the read option and I’m sure the Carolina Panthers’ coaching staff may have noticed this. After re-watching the game, it wasn’t that the Saints weren’t prepared for the read option; it’s more that they were a half step slow in diagnosing it. That half step was the difference in stopping it and getting beat by it. It was the difference between short gains and gains of 10 yards+. David Hawthorne appears to be the man whose responsibility was stopping (or at least trying to) Russell Wilson if he took the keep option and didn’t hand the ball off to Lynch. Too many times, Hawthorne was beat to the edge by Wilson and gave up long gains. This isn’t necessarily a knock on Hawthorne. Maybe he just isn’t fast enough to change direction when going from defending the possibility of the running back taking the ball one direction and having the quarterback take it the other.
Well, this week, a bigger, stronger, faster version of Russell Wilson is coming to the Dome in Cam Newton and will probably present the same challenge to Rob Ryan’s defense as the Seattle Seahawks did last week. The difference in the Dome will be the noise and Carolina’s ability to even get in and out of the huddle. So, even if you’re still a little upset about last week’s dismantling by the Seahawks, be sure to make some noise like we are known to do at home. The Saints laid an egg last week and I’m willing to give them a pass (even though they did nothing to instill confidence in me that they can win a big game one the road in cold weather) because this isn’t a team that historically continues laying eggs one after the other (last season excluded, of course, because in my mind, at least, there was no 2012 NFL football season) and maybe an ass kicking on national television is the motivation that these guys need to hone in their focus for the remainder of the season.
The remaining 4 games of the season are looking like just as brutal of a stretch of games as the previous 4 were, when we all considered the previous 4 to be the stretch that was going to be the most important of the year (at the season’s start). I liked the way it felt back in the first few weeks of the season when the Panthers were playing like crap and looked like a team that was just happy to be getting paid, regardless of the outcome of the games played. Now they’re looking like a confident bunch who have a history of playing some nasty games with the Saints, and winning this game would be the biggest win of Ron Rivera’s short head coaching career (one that was all but finished after the way his team started the season).
So, back to the question at hand: Did the Saints learn something from what they allowed the Seahawks to do to them last week? Who knows? Payton says they did by saying, “The defense has a torn rectum,” when asked about the current injuries. Another question is on the other side of the ball. We all have been asking what the hell that shit-show was that the Saints ran in Seattle that scored a whopping total of 7 points and gained less than 200 yards (numbers that an offense like the Saints should be embarrassed by – even if they were playing the ’85 Bears) and wonder if there was a “formula” used by the Seahawks that has now been exposed to the rest of the league. Well, every time a prolific offense sucks under the bright lights, the questions start flowing about formulas and exposure and “being figured out,” with those questions typically being answered and put to bed one way or the other by the next game’s end.
With this Saints/Panthers matchup being in the Dome, I am somewhat confident that an aerial display of extraordinary proportions will be exhibited by Drew Brees and company, whereas if this one was on the road, that same level of confidence would not be there. I have always been one to say that a win is a win, but I feel like the Saints need to punch Cam Newton and the Panthers in the mouth and dominate them in a way that reminds them who is the best team in the NFC South. A loss so devastating that could possibly cause them to question the quality of their team on their way to closing out the season on a four game losing streak. (You have to admit that would be pretty friggin sweet.)
In spite of what I may hope and wish for this game Sunday night, the Saints have their work cut out for them. Carolina has had the pieces to be a good team for a few years now but has never had the brains or leadership to put it all together. We will find out tomorrow night if they are for real or if they’ve been the beneficiaries of playing mediocre teams at the right time. There’s no denying they are a hot team right now – just look at their current winning streak.
Here’s to that streak ending tomorrow night with Chris Collinsworth telling Al Michaels as the clock ticks down to zero, “I’m not sure this is the same Carolina Panthers football team we’ve been seeing all year. How they could come to New Orleans and get outplayed in every aspect of the game, with the division and possibly the #2 seed in the NFC on the line, is beyond me. I mean, four interceptions for Cam Newton with two of them being returned for touchdowns while allowing Drew Brees to throw for over 500 yards and six touchdowns to six different receivers has to make the Carolina Panthers the worst 9-3 team in the history of the NFL. It’s either that or they really are the team we saw at the beginning of the season that looked completely inept on both sides of the ball, lost to the Buffalo Bills and got smoked by the Arizona Cardinals. They really looked awful tonight. Maybe we should have flexed another game into this spot.”
Just win the game, for Christ’s sake. To trail a Cam Newton-led Panthers team in the division standings would make me sick.
Who dat, y’all.