Panthers vs. Saints: Score, Grades and Analysis

Tim KeeneyContributor IDecember 8, 2013

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 30:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints throws a pass against the Carolina Panthers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 30, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Home, sweet home. 

Less than a week after being embarrassed in Seattle, the New Orleans Saints maintained their undefeated record at the Superdome this season, rolling over the Carolina Panthers, 31-13, to regain sole control of the NFC South on Sunday night. 

Drew Brees sliced and diced the Panthers stout defense on his way to 313 yards, four touchdowns and zero turnovers, Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham caught two touchdowns apiece and the defense took care of the rest, holding Cam Newton and Co. to just 239 total yards on 62 plays. 

The Saints, who have yet to lose in the division, are now 10-3, while the Panthers fall to 9-4. 

Carolina scored on its first two possessions and jumped out to a 6-0 lead, but from there, New Orleans took over.

Brees fired touchdown passes (two to Colston, one to Graham) on the Saints' next three drives (which went 80, 86 and 76 yards, respectively), giving them a 21-6 heading into the locker room. 

The 21 points in a half is pretty much par for the course for the explosive Saints, but for a stingy Panthers defense that entered Sunday allowing just over 13 points per game, it was quite unordinary. John DeShazier of noted the rare occurrence:

New Orleans tallied the first 10 points of the second half when Garrett Hartley knocked in a short field goal in the third quarter and Brees connected with Graham early in the fourth, pushing the lead to 31-6. 

Newton added a late touchdown pass to Steve Smith, who finished with a fairly quiet 49 yards on six catches, but the Saints were already in cruise control.

As if you needed any more proof, this comprehensive win in which the Saints dominated a very good opponent that had won eight in a row served as yet another reminder: you don't want to see this team in New Orleans.


Player Grades

Drew Brees, Saints: A

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 30:   Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints reacts after throwing a touchdown pass to  Darren Sproles #43 of the New Orleans Saints during the game against the Carolina Panthers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 30, 2
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Brees owes his offensive line a nice steak dinner, because the Panthers' normally disruptive pass rush (two sacks) was held very quiet on the night.

And with time to sit back in the pocket, Brees surgically carved up the Panthers secondary, moving the ball down the field with ease and completing passes to nine different receivers. 

As the Saints' official Twitter feed and Lenny Vangilder of pointed out, he made a little bit of history in the process:

Not many quarterbacks can make this defense look ordinary, but that's exactly what Brees did on Sunday night. 


Cam Newton, Panthers: B

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 08:  Quarterback Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers runs to escape the defense of  Malcolm Jenkins #27 of the New Orleans Saints during the first quarter at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 8, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisia
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

His final numbers aren't all that efficient: 22-of-34, 160 passing yards, one touchdown, zero interceptions. But in reality, he wasn't nearly as bad as they may suggest. 

Simply put, Newton took what the defense gave him, which wasn't much. His receivers had all kinds of trouble getting open, meaning all of his completions came underneath (hence the 4.7 yards per attempt average), and when he took shots down the field, they usually fell harmlessly to the ground. 

Overall, he was mostly accurate when he actually had time to throw, took care of the ball and made plays with his legs (48 rushing yards). 

Newton doesn't get a complete pass, but give credit to New Orleans for creating tons of pressure (five sacks) and not giving him much of anything to work with. 


Junior Galette, Saints: A

Dec 8, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) celebrates with teammate outside linebacker Junior Galette (93) after sacking Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (not pictured) during the first half of a game a
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

The entire defensive line deserves recognition for making Newton hurry in the pocket all night long, but we'll focus on Galette. 

The 25-year-old linebacker piled up six tackles, three sacks and four quarterback hits. Moreover, in addition to essentially paying rent in the backfield, he did a solid job containing Newton on the outside. 

There won't be many teams—let alone players—who are able to sack Newton three times in a game. This was a monster performance from Galette. 


What's Next

The Saints head back onto the road to take on the St. Louis Rams before a likely crucial Week 16 rematch in Carolina, while the Panthers will prepare for that showdown by hosting the New York Jets next week.