Steve Smith hauled a TD in during garbage time for the Panthers, but this one's over.
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|New Orleans Saints Game Grades|
|Positional Unit||Halftime Grades||Postgame Grades|
Final Analysis for the New Orleans Saints
Pass Offense: Drew Brees put up a phenomenal performance with four touchdowns and no INTs on an efficient 70 percent completion rate. Marques Colston led the way with 125 yards, and Colston and Graham had a pair of receiving TDs each. The Saints offensive line allowed just two sacks on Brees, who got the ball out quickly and found his weapons in space.
Run Offense: The Saints had just 15 second-half rushing yards, but it didn't matter, as the Saints had broken the game open by that point. Darren Sproles' 38-yard run was the only real difference-making play that the Saints rush attack mustered.
Pass Defense: Five sacks (three from Junior Galette, two from Cameron Jordan) and just 160 passing yards on 4.7 YPA? This was a phenomenal performance from an upstart Saints passing defense. Keenan Lewis played a strong game in coverage, and the pass rush was ferocious in limiting Cam Newton.
Run Defense: Another game in which the Saints couldn't run or stop the run, and another game in which it didn't matter in the least. The Saints allowed 128 rushing yards on 5.6 YPA in the game, including 48 yards to Cam Newton, but the Panthers couldn't take advantage and ground-and-pound their way into any scores.
Special Teams: Darren Sproles had a couple of nice punt returns, Garrett Hartley hit his only field goal, and Thomas Morstead boomed four punts for a 44.3 YPP average. The Saints did allow a big return from explosive kick returner Ted Ginn.
Coaching: This was the explosive, disciplined, turnover-free Saints team we're familiar with. Rob Ryan turned loose the pass rush, and Sean Payton's big-play offense returned to form. Payton's Saints responded in a big way to a tough loss against the Seahawks and remain in the driver's seat for a first-round bye.
Halftime Analysis for the New Orleans Saints
Pass Offense: After an off game against the Seattle Seahawks, Drew Brees has responded in a big way against his divisional rivals. Brees racked up three touchdowns in the first half on 8.7 YPA and 81 percent passing. Marques Colston has been huge, with 74 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns. Seven receivers caught passes in a vintage Brees performance in the first half.
Run Offense: Darren Sproles busted loose for a 38-yard rumble that made the Saints' first-half rushing stats look better than they should. Other than that burst from Sproles, the Saints have just 26 yards on seven rushes at 3.7 YPC. Not a pathetic first half once you include Sproles' run, but it's a typical Saints ignore-the-run game thus far.
Pass Defense: The electric Cam Newton has been grounded thus far in the first half, with 3.8 YPA despite a 71 percent completion rate. The Saints are doing a solid job with tackling and have held the Panthers to just 53 yards in the air. This is an impressive rebound after a scalding at the hands of Russell Wilson one week ago.
Run Defense: As usual, the Saints defense isn't especially focused on stopping the run game. The Panthers have 76 yards on the ground thus far, including a 19-yard run from Newton and 45 yards from DeAngelo Williams. Carolina's run game has kept time of possession in its favor, but as usual, it's largely irrelevant as the Saints have staked a lead thanks to big plays.
Special Teams: Garrett Hartley has nailed all three extra points, and Thomas Morstead boomed another punt to continue an impressive season.
Coaching: The Saints have returned to their big-play mojo after a game in which Brees completed just two passes over 20 yards (they have five in this game). With a game plan that effectively slowed the Panthers' pass rush and let loose some big-play receivers in space, the Saints have rebounded well from last week's loss. They have lost 35 yards from penalties, however, and need to check their discipline in the second half.