November 8, 2009

Saints win heavyfight bout with Panthers; 30-20 buys them 8-0

  • The Saints are 8-0 for the first time in franchise history.

  • Drew Brees looked good when he had to, and the Saints defense shut the Panthers out of the end zone in the final 53 minutes of a tough game.

  • The Panthers jumped on the Saints 14-0 in the first quarter with two quick-strike touchdowns, then found themselves in a junkyard dog fight with a Saints team that was bloodied and even more dangerous.

  • Sean Payton at times his run game, though he called four straight passes to start the game. The first three were complete but for a total of eight yards, and the fourth resulted in a sack fumble and a recovery by the Panthers at the Saint 11. The Saints also ran an end-around and three straight passes, one of which was nullified by penalty, in a three-and-out late in the second half. Brees then went back to pass 10 straight times at the end of the second half.

    In the end, Payton's Saints had 20 rushes from his runningbacks to 36 passes. Exclude the Saints' first four plays and their two-minute drive at the end of the half, the Saints were a balanced 21-rush attempts to 24 pass attempts.

  • On DeAngelo Williams' 66 yard touchdown run on the second offensive play of the game, the Saints presented a stacked box and the Panthers just found the back door of the alignment. RDE Will Smith was knocked to his knees by a dive block, both Saints DT's were pushed to the right side of the field, and WLB Scott Shanle was sealed by LG Travelle Wharton. Safety Roman Harper had committed to gap-filling on the right side of the offensive line and Darren Sharper, playing deep, is no match for a full-speed Williams in the open field. Williams ran away from Sharper for the score.

  • Shockey's first catch of the day, coming across for a scrambling Brees, was a marvelous display of QB-TE chemistry. Shockey went up with his body to chest-catch a pass and then take two simultaneous hits, but the better play we putting himself in position to be there for his quarterback.

  • But Brees wasn't on target today with everyone. His red zone interception was a pass that should have been over the top to Colston, based on how the receiver ran the pattern. Perhaps it was a miscommunication, but Brees' pass was low and away... and right to Panthers CB Chris Gamble.

  • LB Jonathan Vilma was consistently getting into the backfield, and made a couple plays back there, but even when he was blocked away, he was disrupting the downfield blocking and making the job easier for his defensive linemates. Usually, its the other way around.

  • DE Will Smith beat LT Jordan Gross for his second quarter sack with a vicious left arm punch to the chest and then a break inside to the left, where Delhomme had no escape velocity. Smith dropped him to set up 3rd and 21.

  • The Panthers turned Brees' first fumble into a touchdown, but thanks to Smith's sack, the Panthers had to settle for a field goal in the second quarter. On that third and long, DeAngelo Williams picked up 13 yards on a run up the middle and was blasted down by Darren Sharper as Vilma tackled him from behind. Williams was slow to get up on the carry that collected his 100th yard on only 11 first half carries.

  • WR Marques Colston had a pair of ugly drops in the Saints' two-minute drill at the end of the first half, but atoned for it by getting open and making a tough catch, and dragging Gamble down the field for 10 yards. Following that catch, a roughing the passer call set the Saints up with first and goal at the seven with :21 seconds left.

    On first down, Brees hit Bush in the flat and Bush ran out for no gain. On second, Beason interfered with Shockey on a back-shoulder pass, but no flag was called. Replay cleared showed that Beason locked Shockey's left arm and the ball was incomplete. On third down, rookie DE Everette Brown batted down Brees' pass. John Carney's field goal made it 17-6 going into half time.

  • DT DeMario Pressley saw his first NFL action in the second quarter. Losing both starting defensive tackles, and their starting strongside linebacker, are all contributing factors to a suddenly porous run defense.

  • The Saints won the third round of this heavyweight fight, scoring on their opening possession of the second half. The Saints defense surrendered a long, nine minute, 47 second drive but held fast and thanks to a Jake Delhomme miscue, allowed only a field goal. On the next possession, the Saints moved to midfield, picked up a tough third down, overcame a ticky tack offensive pass interference call on Jeremy Shockey, and then Brees hit Robert Meachem deep down the seam. Meachem bounced off a tackle and raced in from 54 yards out for the tying touchdown, 20-20 as time expired in the third quarter.

  • Tough drive for Saints in the middle of the fourth quarter. A 13-play, 6:43 drive saw two Colston miss two tough but catchable touchdown receptions, and a holding penalty wipe out a Pierre Thomas screen to the two that would have set up first and goal. The Saints eventually cashed that effort in with a 40-yard John Carney field goal and their first lead of the game, but it would have been nicer to have a touchdown.

  • The Saints forced the Panthers turn it over on downs inside three minutes to play, but two stuffed runs and an incomplete pass later, the Saints punted. CB Malcolm Jenkins downed the ball at the two yard line.

    A few seconds later, RB DeAngelo Williams fumbled the ball at the line, and DT Anthony Hargrove got the trifecta: force, recovery, return for a touchdowns. Saints up 30-20.

  • The Panthers drove quickly from their own 20 to the Saints' 20, but stalled inside the red zone. On third and goal, the Darren Sharper read a quick slant to Steve Smith like a book - Sharper goaded Delhomme into going there and put his hand in there to knock it away. Sharper was close to having 100-yard dash there.

    On fourth down, Jonathan Vilma and the middle of the Saints defense collapsed on RB DeAngelo Williams and forced an incompletion, burying the runningback in a sea of black jerseys. Vilma high stepped his way back to midfield with the game won. It was a remarkable performance for a Saints defense that bent but refused to break in the second half, allowing only a field goal after the 5:26 mark of the second quarter.

  • RB Reggie Bush looked solid on the day, making good use of his touches. Bush gained 16 yards on 2 carries and lead the team with seven receptions for 37 yards. He had two catches for key first downs on the Saints' key late drive for the lead-taking field goal. None of Bush's touches came on third down, though he was targeted in an incomplete pass on a second quarter third down.

  • Biggest Saints injury concern on the day is CB Jabari Greer, who limped off the field after a long incompletion to WR Dwayne Jarrett in the second half. Greer was replaced by Randall Gay in the starting lineup, which pushed rookie CB Malcolm Jenkins into play time on defense. UPDATE: Greer has a strained groin that Payton does not consider to be serious.

  • The Saints are 2-0 in the NFC South and three games up on the 5-3 Atlanta Falcons. The next two games on the Saints' schedule are against 1-7 teams. We will see how well Sean Payton can keep his team focused. The Saints could be 10-0 headed into a Monday Night thriller against the Patriots on November 30.

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