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Saints vs. Panthers game notes

December 03, 2017 - 2:56 am

New Orleans Saints vs Carolina Panthers

Sunday December 3, 2017

3:25 Kickoff Mercedes-Benz Superdome

Last Week’s Results:  Carolina beat New York Jets 35-27 and New Orleans beat Buffalo 26-20. 

Series History:  The Saints and Panthers will face each other for the 46th time Sunday.  Carolina leads the all-time series 24-21.  New Orleans won the first meeting between the two earlier this season 24-13.

Carolina Panthers

Division:  NFC South

2017 Record:  8-3

Head Coach:  Ron Rivera

Defensive Coordinator: Steve Wilks

Offensive Coordinator: Mike Shula

Top Offensive Players:  QB Cam Newton, RB Christian McCaffery, TE Greg Olson 

Defensive Standouts: MLB Luke Kuechly, LB Thomas Davis, LB Shaq Thompson, DL Kwann Short, DE Charles Davis, NT Ziggy Hood. 

Special Teams:  P Michael Palardy, K Graham Gano, KR Fozzy Whitaker, PR Kaelin Clay


Since the last time the Saints saw the Cats

When you’re 6-2 in your last eight games, it’s safe to say the Cats from North Carolina are running on all cylinders.  Even though Cam is coming off a less than impressive performance in Carolina’s 35-27 win over the NY Jets, Newton has played some pretty good football since his last face off with the Saints.

Two weeks ago Newton was the NFC “offensive player of the week,” playing lights out in a win over Miami.  Better yet, I went back and charted what #1 did in the last eight games since the Saints-Panthers last battle. 

Overall, Newton was really solid, compiling over 2000 yards from scrimmage.  Cam completed 149-of-239 pass attempts for 1,667 yards.  Newton threw 12 TD passes and had seven interceptions.

Cam also rushed for another 425 yards on 53 carries, scoring 3 TD’s.  But, more importantly, Newton led his team to a 6-2 mark during that eight game stretch. 


Saints Offense versus Panthers Defense

Balance is power!  In their first meeting with the Cats, the Saints owned the line of scrimmage - an area the Panthers usually dominate.  The control of the line of scrimmage allowed Sean Payton to call a game that left Carolina clueless about which way the Saints might come at them.

The Saints ran 57 offensive plays; gained 362 yards of offense and New Orleans held the ball for 31:09.  In those 57 plays, the Saints balance was near perfect - rushing the ball 27 times for 149 yards; and the Black & Gold had 29 pass attempts.  Balance.  Power.

Folks, this is not rocket science.  If New Orleans can have similar numbers Sunday at home in the Mercedes Benz Superdome, the Saints will sweep the Carolina Panthers.  Carolina’s defense certainly remembers how the Saints ruled the line of scrimmage.

And now, one has to wonder - will the Panthers rally as a team to compensate for the loss of top DE Charles Johnson.  Johnson was suspended for four games and will not play in Sunday’s key NFC South tilt. 


Panthers Offense versus Saints Defense

If the Saints can emulate the performance from game one in all phases, I can flat out guarantee you a Black & Gold win.  New Orleans controlled the line of scrimmage, they had solid balance on offense, and the Saints finished +3 in the turnover ratio.

But that was back in week three, when the Saints were 0-2 and Carolina was 2-0. Since that meeting, these teams have two of the best records in the NFL. New Orleans reigns 7-1, while the Cats are 6-2 in that stretch. 

A big plus for Carolina?  More of a ground game from Cam Newton. Prior to the Saints game in week three Cam was carrying the ball 6 times for an average of less than three yards per rush.  Well #1 has asserted himself much more in the rushing game, averaging over six rushing attempts for an average of eight yards per rush.

There are few people, if any, who have the commanding physical skill set Newton has.  And, it has become indisputably evident that not many can take down the physical Newton. Those who go after the ball are far more successful.

In talking to several Saints defenders, including Raphael Bush and Tyler Davidson, they both say when it comes to the Panthers - you have to take the game as it comes…and when you have a chance to make a play on the star QB, you have to make it or he will get his yards and then some.

New Orleans picked off Cam three times in the first meeting.  That was largely due to the Saints putting the Panthers in tough spots, forcing them to pass the football, which does not suit Newton well.


The Big Chief Says

I think back to the two games in 2013, when the Saints and Cats fought for the South Title and a top seed.  Those games were big.  But when you reflect on the Saints and Panthers struggles and progress this season, I say without question this game is even bigger. 

And, like most games, this matchup will come down to turnovers and whether or not the Saints can get a spark going on special teams.  How fitting would it be to see a big Ted Gin Jr. punt return for a touchdown, or to set up a short field for the Saints offense?

The dome will be packed.  With a 3:25 kickoff, the Who Dat Nation has a few extra hours to get amped up and ready to be loud and rowdy inside of the Superdome.  I think this game could go down to the wire.  And I think the team that has the ball last may win it.

But, the BIG plus for the Black & gold this season, the Saints defense is no fluke.  The Saints have closed games…made big plays, and, yes, big sacks and even TD’s to seal the deal in tough matchups.  As Newell Normand would say, “the empirical data” leads me to believe the Saints D is up and ready for this battle with the Panthers.

I’ll go with the Black & Gold!  New Orleans 27 Carolina 24.



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