Cleat Geeks

New Orleans Got 1st Win In 34-13 Upset Of Carolina

After starting off with a bad 0-2 season, the New Orleans Saints needed a win to get back on track and make a more productive run towards the playoffs. Week 3, the Saints capitalized on that chance with a big 34-13 upset win over a tough NFC South rival in the Carolina Panthers (2-1). There were multiple elements that the Saints needed to fix upon facing both a very good offense and a tough seemingly unbreakable defense.


The Saints passing game was very instrumental and efficient

Quarterback Drew Brees has been the heart and soul of the Saints offense for many years, it should only come naturally that he is the vital part of the gameplan. Through the first two games of the season, Head Coach Sean Payton and the Saints were trying to establish a top-tier running game with Mark Ingram, Adrian Peterson, and rookie Alvin Kamara. With the running game not turning out where New Orleans wants it to be, they decided to go back to Drew Brees firing out high-velocity passes. Brees accounted for 220 yards on 22 completions (out of 29 attempts) and 3 touchdowns. This was the result of a Carolina Panthers defense that had been untested in defending the pass this season through match-ups against San Francisco and Buffalo. Last year, the Panthers had one of the worst rankings in terms of defending the pass due to the loss of All-Pro Corner Josh Norman in the prior off-season.

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WR Michael Thomas accounted for 7 receptions for 87 yards and 1 touchdown while former Panther Ted Ginn Jr. accounted for 2 receptions for 44 yards and a touchdown. The Saints used their fast Receivers route deep routes to outrun the Panthers Defensive Backs, who were still unable to defend or catch up to long passes. The Saints offense accounted for 16 plays of 10 yards or more. A combination of the short plays, mostly from the run game, and the long passing helped disarrayed the Panthers defense.


The Saints passing defense played more consistently

Through the first two games of the season, the Saints have been very vulnerable against defending the pass. At first, it was the failure to be alert while in zone coverages against Minnesota. Then against the New England Patriots, it was about mismatches while adapting to new man-to-man coverage schemes. The Saints were last in the league in total yards allowed per game (512.5 yards) and passing yards allowed per game (388.5 yards). New Orleans still needed to properly adjust to the new man coverage schemes and enact them against a Panthers offense that was highly talented.

Despite having starting Cornerbacks Sterling Moore and rookie Marshon Lattimore out for the game against Carolina, the Saints Defensive Backs did a great job of locking down the long passing game of Carolina. Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin only accounted for 2 receptions for 8 yards, although he did leave at the end of the 1st quarter and did not return.

The only dangerous Receiver throughout the entire game for Carolina was RB Christian McCaffrey, who often lined up at the slot Receiver position. McCaffrey accounted for 9 receptions for 101 yards and was often matched up against Saints S Kenny Vaccaro. Corners Ken Crawley and P.J. Williams did a great job of shutting down the deep Receivers of the Panthers making them unreachable targets for QB Cam Newton. The Saints forced 3 turnovers from the Panthers with all interceptions thrown by Cam Newton. CB P.J. Williams, S Kenny Image result for trey hendrickson saintsVaccaro, and CB Marcus Williams each accounted for an interception for the Saints.

New Orleans’ Defensive Line was also a big reason why they were able to shut down the deep passing of Cam Newton. The Saints put constant pressure on Cam Newton with their normal Defensive Line sets and through multiple blitzes. Newton only passed for 167 yards on 17 completions (out of 26 passing attempts), 3 interceptions and accounted for a 7.2 QBR. New Orleans defense accounted for 4 sacks and 5 tackles for loss. DE Cameron Jordan accounted for 7 total tackles, 3 solo tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss, and 2 QB hits. DE/OLB Alex Okafor accounted for 5 total tackles, 3 solo tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss, and a QB hit. Rookie DE Trey Hendrickson has had himself a stellar year so far with New Orleans as he also accounted for a sack and a tackle for loss this past game. The Saints Defensive Ends outmatched the Panther’s Tackles almost every play on the field.


New Orleans moving towards a positive direction

With the first win under the belt for New Orleans, the Saints will be looking to make more of a statement as they will continue their season next Sunday in London against the Miami Dolphins (1-1). The Dolphins are a team that has not figured out what kind of potential they have. While they have a strong defense (playing the Chargers and Jets, however), their offense is really struggling under the leadership of new Quarterback Jay Cutler.

New Orleans must take this extra preparation but hectic schedule going to London to further advance the progress they are making with their passing defense. Hopefully, they will have Corners Sterling Moore and Marshon Lattimore back on a unit that has been getting better since their disastrous week 1 performance against the Minnesota Vikings. Their matchup against the Dolphins in London can be a great opportunity for the Saints to address their Offensive Line flaws and progress their 18th ranked rushing offense led by Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson.

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