Saints 27, Panthers 35
Run Game impressive as the Panthers Send the Saints to 0-2 for the first time since 2007
First of all, I'd like to give the game ball to Pierre Thomas. He was the best player on the field today for the Saints. I was amazed at how persistent he was, and would simply keep stretching the play, and make things happen. I wrote up my Keys to the Game blog, which pretty much summed up what had to happen, and I was pretty spot on if I must say so.
The Saints came out firing on all cylinders, with an opening Brees to Sproles drive. It was capped off by a wide open Jimmy Graham. As I referred to it, it was a statement drive. The Defense responded by forcing the Panthers off the field, and then Godfrey picked off Brees on a pass that should have never been thrown.
Offensive Line started, but didn't finish
The Line looked pretty good up until the 3rd Quarter. The Panthers went from not getting any/little pressure to overwhelming Brees. We're not talking sacks either, because the Panthers only got 1 for the game. It's clearly evident when you disrupt Brees & his timing/cadence, it affects the production. For whatever reason, we simply couldn't protect Brees long enough to find receivers. It wasn't until the 3rd Quarter until we heard from Marques Colston, and then he had some key grabs. The pressure on Brees on one of the final drives was stripped of the ball, then recovered, and almost made it happen - but, it should have never been that way.
If you remember back earlier in the game, the Saints offense were in position to score. There was drop by Jimmy Graham & then Lance Moore. We had to settle for a Field Goal, which was a pretty big thing (almost could say a momentum changer). After the Saints second Hartley Field Goal of 53 yards (yeah, John Kasay couldn't do that), the Panthers went on a 21 Unanswered Point run. There was another point in the game where Brees was under fire, and threw the ball away, forcing a Intentional Grounding penalty, and taking the Saints out of Field Goal range - settling for a Morstead punt.
The Front 7 + The Secondary = Rough
Sure, your auto sense is to say how terrible the defense is showing, which has now surrendered 75 points & 900+ yards in the first two games. Remember, entering this game Jabari Greer & Scott Shanle were questionable. Greer toughed it out, but left Patrick Robinson to cover Steve Smith, and Corey White to cover Brandon Lafell. Lafell caught 6-90, and Smith 3-104 (including that 66 yard dagger, which hurt). P-Rob dropped a sure interception (seemed like I saw this before), which was something the team desperately needed today. There were spots of the Front 7 getting more pressure, and caused a fumble on that 4th Down gamble of the Panthers, which prevented points. However, when the defense was needed most today, it let down & kept the Panthers drives going.
As much as you hate him, Newton accounted for 324 yards of offense (71 Rush)
So now we're 0-2, which means time to panic, abandon hope, and trade in your Saints gear right? Hardly. Overall, I felt better about this game, but you can take that however you want. The key thing is this team DOES NOT QUIT. You have to be encouraged by that. We're gonna have to fight for every inch, and it was never a realistic thing to think this team would go 13-3, 14-2, or 15-1 - despite how strong you feel about the team. It again came down to the final drive, and obviously had the same result ending up with a Brees interception. You can't say the refs were a factor in the game (only 6 penalties called all game compared to 24 last one). The Saints have to get off to & sustain a strong start, and prevent themselves from playing catchup. Now, we'll turn to a home game against the 0-2 Chiefs, who have looked pretty bad. It's safe to say this is a MUST WIN game with the next two opponents being the Packers & Chargers.