The New Orleans Saints (4-2) defeated the Carolina Panthers (3-4) by the score of 27-24 in front of 3,000 fans inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday. The victory is New Orleans' third consecutive win and their second over an NFC SOUTH opponent this season. The Saints now sit a half-game behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who defeated the Raiders Sunday afternoon, for first place in the NFC SOUTH.
Below are three takeaways from the Saints Week 7 victory over the Panthers...
NO THOMAS? NO SANDERS? NO PROBLEM!
The New Orleans Saints entered Sunday's action without their two top wide receivers, Michael Thomas (hamstring) and Emmanuel Sanders (reserve/COVID-19). With questions on who would catch passes from Brees, WR Marquez Callaway, RB Alvin Kamara, and WR Tre'quan Smith provided the “next man up mentality,” eclipsing nearly 200 yards receiving against the Panthers.
Brees threw for 287 yards and 2 TDs en route to become the first player in NFL history to complete 7,000 passes. The Saints' offense has begun humming again after a slow start to the season. New Orleans entered the week averaging over 30 points per game and were right on average scoring 27 on Sunday.
Sean Payton's offense ran 67 offensive plays, including 37 passing plays. The trust placed in Drew Brees and his young receivers were evident in Payton's play-calling, and it paid off as Brees looks back to his vintage form, and rookie Marquez Callaway showed he could be another diamond UDFA find for the Saints.
THE DEFENSE STRUGGLES BUT MAKES THE WINNING PLAY... AGAIN
New Orleans' offense provided as many favors as possible to a struggling defense. Winning time of possession, scoring 27 points, and continuing to convert on third down to keep drives alive was not enough to mask the poor play of the Saints secondary on Sunday.
It was another Sunday of mental lapses, blown coverage, and stupid penalties for the Saints defense. But much like Week 5, when Marshon Lattimore made a game-winning tackle on fourth down, the Saints defense stepped up when the team needed it most.
On the Panthers final drive, DE Marcus Davenport sacked former Saints QB Teddy Bridgewater for a loss of 8-yards on third down. The sack brought up a 4th and 19. Panthers Head Coach Matt Rhule rolled the dice and trotted out placekicker Joey Slye for a 65-yard field goal attempt that landed just short of the crossbar.
Despite giving up three 75-yard touchdown drives, including a 74-yard TD strike from Bridgewater to D.J Moore, Davenport's sack proved to be the difference in the ball game and allowed the 3,000 members of Who Dat Nation inside the Dome to breathe a sigh of relief. Though Dennis Allen's pass defense will continue to be in question this week, they've now helped the Saints escape with back-to-back victories at home.
A WIN IS A WIN
The Saints had another week of missing key starters, another COVID-19 scare, and more adversity going into a big matchup against an NFC SOUTH foe. It would have been an easy week to roll over and say, “it's not our day,” but the Saints fought and found a way to secure their third consecutive victory of the 2020 season.
Plenty of things went right for the black and gold today, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. The Saints were terrific on third down, converting on 12 of 14 attempts, and were just as successful in the red zone going 3 of 4. Right in the middle of the offense's success was the RB duo of Kamara and Murray, who combined for 130 rushing yards while averaging 5.2 yards per carry. Running the football's success took some pressure off the inexperienced wide-outs and allowed the Saints to out-possess the Panthers by over 10 minutes.
However, it was not just the offense that had things go their way. Defensively the Saints continue to be among the leagues best against the run. Sunday afternoon, they held the Panthers to under 40 yards on the ground, but it was the team's Achilles heel, the secondary, that continued to give the Panthers life.
Teddy Bridgewater completed 82% of his passes for 254 yards, 2 TDs, and 0 INTs in his first game back in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome since signing with the Panthers. The New Orleans fan-favorite led three touchdown drives against his old team while converting 66% of their third-down attempts. The Panthers ran 24 fewer plays than the Saints and collected over 120 fewer yards but were in prime position to tie the game late in the fourth quarter.
The defense continues to be the biggest question mark for the defending NFC SOUTH Champions but at least for Week 7, a win is a win.
- Saints Offense Shines in Tough Win Over Panthers
- Saints Michael Thomas Could Miss 2 Weeks With Hamstring injury
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