New Orleans Saints – Still Kings of the NFC South

Drew Brees

The hype from what Cam Newton and Ron Rivera are doing this season with the Carolina Panthers isn’t over, but it’s been put into prespective after a 31-14 loss against the New Orleans Saints, as Drew Brees put on quite the impressive performance, throwing four touchdown passes.

With no weather to bother the teams, Brees simply but the ball in the air and let go. He finished with 30-of-42 for 313 yards and four touchdowns – two to Marques Colston, two to Jimmy Graham.

Things went slightly difficult for the Saints early on. The Panthers had long first quarter drives, both of them ending with field goals. The Saints’ first drive was a 3-and-out, but once Brees got the ball in the second quarter, the whole dynamic of the game changed. It became a shootout, and in New Orleans, it’s almost impossible to beat the Saints that way, especially when you’re a pass-limited team like the Panthers are.

Brees was exceptional against one of the best pass-rushes in the NFL. The Panthers don’t blitz a lot, knowing that their front four is good enough to make life difficult for any quarterback. He was 22-of-26 (85%) against four or fewer pass rushers, the highest completion percentage the Panthers have allowed in a game in the last six seasons when sending standard pressure. Three touchdowns came against four pass-rushers. The Panthers entered the game allowing only five all season. Brees was especially effective when he targeted Marques Colston, 7-of-9 with two touchdowns.

Love this offense. Love what Sean Payton’s put together. We just had great balance. Marques came up with some huge catches, as did Jimmy. The line did a great job … and the defense did a great job of getting us the ball.

The Panthers just looked a bit slow and a bit stunned at the end of the game. Ron Rivera mentioned something about the turf and about how things will be different in Carolina. He might be right, but it’s also quite an excuse to pull out of the hat after a very disappointing performance, losing a divisional game for the first time this season. The Panthers gave up 31 consecutive points, which is quite rare to see from a team that didn’t even turn the ball over once.

Maybe Carolina gave up on the running game too soon – they averaged six yards per carry, 128 yards in total. Cam Newton did OK in the passing game – 160 yards, one touchdown, 22-of-34, but not enough to keep the pace with Brees, who kept launching long bomb, one after the other. When the Panthers try and play that kind of game, there’s nothing impressive about them. Brees completed 67% of his passes that traveled 15 or more yards downfield. Cam Newton was 1-of-5 on passes traveling 15+ yards downfield. He has completed more than two deep passes in only one game this season.

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