A backbreaking drive by Cam Newton stamps this one as a Panthers win.
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|Positional Unit||Halftime Grades||Postgame Grades|
Postgame Analysis for the New Orleans Saints
Pass Offense: Another bad game from Brees against a physical defense. The offensive line allowed six sacks, including three full sacks from Greg Hardy. Brees finished with a middling 6.4 YPA on 44 attempts and threw two terrible picks. He did march the Saints down the field for the go-ahead TD to Jimmy Graham with six minutes remaining in the game, but it wasn't enough, as the offense mustered a pathetic 13 points.
Run Offense: Mark Ingram had a strong game, with 83 yards rushing on 13 carries. The Saints had a strong overall running game (126 total yards), but it wasn't enough as they couldn't punch the ball in the end zone.
Pass Defense: Despite the strong stats (59 percent completion rate allowed, 181 yards allowed through the air, four sacks) the pass defense crumbled when it mattered most. A five-play, 65-yard drive by Cam Newton that took just 32 seconds wound up being New Orleans' undoing.
Run Defense: DeAngelo Williams' 43-yard TD rumble accounted for over half of the Panthers' 81 total rushing yards. Otherwise, the Saints did a very strong job of defending the run in the second half. It was the Saints' strengths (passing and pass defense) that let them down while their weaknesses (running the ball and stopping the run) weren't especially glaring.
Special Teams: Shayne Graham hit both his FGs and Darren Sproles had a decent first half of punt returns (four returns, 7.5 YPR).
Coaching: Sean Payton's decision to put rookie Terron Armstead at left tackle backfired, as he allowed three full sacks on four QB hits to Greg Hardy. He did call for a surprise onside kick in the second quarter, a bold move which worked out when the Saints recovered. Still, his offense came up small following the Graham TD, as the Saints weren't able to control the clock and gave the ball back to Cam Newton with time to make plays. Then his defense failed to deliver the final blow.
Halftime Analysis for the New Orleans Saints
Pass Offense: In a crucial game for the Saints, Drew Brees came up small in the first half, finishing with a 5.2 YPA and just 124 yards. Brees also threw an ill-advised interception on a slant in which he didn't see the linebacker settling in the window. A lot of the blame has to fall on the offensive line, which could do nothing against the Panthers rush (five sacks, 2.5 by Greg Hardy). On the plus side, Marques Colston has had a big half, with 63 yards including a 35-yard bomb.
Run Offense: This was a surprisingly strong half by the usually inept New Orleans run game. A 34-yard scuttle by Mark Ingram set up a New Orleans field goal. Of course, that run accounted for nearly half of the Saints' first-half rushing yardage, but Ingram sightings are always a thing of beauty for Saints fans.
Pass Defense: The Panthers didn't run many plays in the first half (19, as New Orleans dominated time of possession nearly 2-to-1), so the Saints didn't need much from their pass defense. A red-zone pick of Cam Newton helped the Saints' cause, as did two big sacks. Overall, this was a very strong performance from a pass defense that was beaten silly by Kellen Clemens in the first half last week. Sixty-eight yards allowed in a half is a big win for New Orleans.
Run Defense: A 43-yard off-tackle TD run by DeAngelo Williams sullied what was otherwise an unusually good performance by the Saints run defense. Outside of that run, the Panthers (one of the league's best teams on the ground) managed just 13 rushing yards. Still, that run is the difference in the game right now.
Special Teams: Darren Sproles has been decent on his four punt returns (7.5-yard return average). Shayne Graham hit both of his field goals, and Thomas Morstead is averaging over 50 yards on his four punts.
Coaching: This has been a defensive slugfest between two elite defensive lines. We've seen the Saints win shootouts, but we'll see how they fare in a grinder. Give credit to the coaching staff for finding ways to dominate time of possession and take the ball away from the electric Newton, but now it's up to coach Sean Payton to figure out how to get his offense in the end zone. Look for Payton to take some of his patented deep shots in the second half; of course, that's reliant on the Saints offensive line buying enough time for Brees to do his thing.