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Keys to the Game: Panthers vs. Saints

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Defense

Dec 2, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan reacts to a touchdown call for the Seattle Seahawks during the third quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

You’re going to hear a lot of similiarities with the Seahawks & Panthers style of offense. The facts are that they are not that far off base.

What you may have missed, forgotten, or just blocked out of your mind from last season is that the Panthers scored 79 points in those two games last season, ripping the Saints defense for 993 total yards of offense (420 rushing yards, 501 passing yards). To put it plainly, those games were terrible last year.

The Panthers enter ranked 29th in the league in passing offense (198.4 yards/game) and 9th in the league in rushing offense (129.3 yards/game). While the Saints were able to contain Marshawn Lynch last week, it was the play of Russell Wilson that did them in. Wilson pulled some read options, and rattled off 8 attempts for 45 yards, but the big thing was that he kept drives going. Let’s also not forget to mention that he outperformed Drew Brees, something that only a handful of quarterbacks ever get to say in their lifetime.

Cam Newton has a knack for taking over games, and while his stats are not exactly last year’s, they are still respectable, which is another huge reason why the Panthers have won 8 straight games. Rob Ryan has to figure out something for Cam Newton. I’m sure he’s had enough time to figure out what needs to get done here, and I full expect the Saints to have another blitz/agressive heavy approach to Newton. The big thing here is that Saints simply cannot miss those tackles.

What To Watch For: Keenan Lewis on Steve Smith. Every Saints fans knows Steve Smith, and how he likes to play. Personally, most fans wouldn’t spit on him if he would catch on fire. If you have to ask why, then maybe you should look into further as a homework assignment. Lewis was brought in to be the Saints shutdown corner, and has done a formidable job this season in that role, arguably deserving a Pro Bowl vote or two. You’ll see these guys jaw at each other a good bit, and don’t be surprised to some extra-curricular activity after the whistle.

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