Around the NFL  

 

Cam Newton struggles as Saints score first win of year

Print

The New Orleans Saints knocked the Carolina Panthers from the ranks of the unbeaten, cruising to a 34-13 victory on the road. Here's what we learned in the NFC South grudge match:

1. The Panthers finally encountered a legitimate aerial attack after becoming the first defense since 1981 to allow three points or fewer in each of the season's first two games. Drew Brees and Michael Thomas picked apart Carolina's secondary, which tackles better than it covers. Stingy against the anemic 49ers and Bills, Steve Wilks' defense surrendered big plays to Thomas, Ted Ginn, Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. Brees produced his highest passer rating (131.4) since last November while the Saints pounded out 149 yards on the ground.

2. Facing a beleaguered Saints defense that had allowed a staggering 88 completion rate on passes of 15 or more yards over the season's first two weeks, Cam Newton generated a minuscule 43.8 passer rating with three interceptions in one of the worst performances of his career. Newton never looked right from the opening whistle, as the Panthers leaned even heavier than normal on the ground attack in the first quarter. Showing little faith in his quarterback with an 18-point deficit in the middle of the third quarter, "Riverboat Ron" Rivera opted to punt on fourth-and-5 from New Orleans' 35-yard line. Once the game was out of reach, Derek Anderson came on to replace Newton near the five-minute mark in the fourth quarter. Rivera explained after the game that the late QB switch was simply "self-preservation mode" for Newton.

3. Coach Sean Payton acknowledged to the FOX broadcast crew that he has yet to figure out how best to utilize his three-headed backfield of Mark Ingram, Adrian Peterson and Alvin Kamara. Although Peterson flashed his trademark power and persistence on a few tackle-breaking runs, his presence on the field is too often a "tell" for defenses bracing against the run. Per play-by-play man Kenny Albert, Payton also praised Kamara as one of the smartest players he's ever coached. The rookie should be in line for more playing time after putting the game away with an impressive 25-yard touchdown run.

4. Kelvin Benjamin joined injured Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen on the sideline after twisting his left knee late in the first quarter. Minus those top two targets, the Panthers passing attack had no stretch-the-field element, opting instead for screen passes and dump-offs to rookie Christian McCaffrey (13 touches, 117 yards) near the line of scrimmage. When Newton did test the intermediate-to-deep range, he was too often punished for throwing into crowds. Between the injuries and Newton's balky throwing shoulder, Carolina's one-dimensional offense will have to find a way to keep up with the Patriots and Lions in road tilts the next two weeks.

Print

Fan Discussion