After Further Review: Week 2 loss to Panthers - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

After Further Review: Week 2 loss to Panthers

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The Saints are 0-2.

It's disappointing. It's frustrating. And most of all it's surprising, given the talent on this roster.

Unlike last week against Washington, the Saints truly played well enough to win this game. They outplayed the Panthers for 2.5 quarters.

But in football, only the final score matters. And that's why they're the only NFC team without a win.

Let's break it all down.

Where the Game was Lost

At the 7:08 mark of the second quarter, Garrett Hartley nailed a career-long 53-yard field goal to make the score 13-7. The Saints didn't score again until the fourth quarter.

In between the Panthers exploded for 21 straight points and held a 266-57 edge in yards gained.

During that time the Saints had two 3 & outs and a crucial intentional grounding penalty that knocked them out of field goal range.

Despite a great start and a valiant effort in the fourth quarter, the Saints were never able to overcome these 22 minutes.

Defensive Woes

We've all seen that the Saints are giving the NFL new hope that the read option can work in the NFL but what concerned me more about Sunday were the explosive plays the Saints allowed Panthers.

The Saints gave up nine plays of over 15 yards for a total of 251 yards. For the game the Panthers ran 62 plays for 463 yards which means Carolina got over half their yards on nine plays. The other 51 resulted in 212 yards.

By comparison, the Saints, who have a big play offense, had eight plays of over 15 yards for 201 yards. For the game, the Saints had 77 plays for 486 yards.

Of all the Panthers big plays there was none bigger than the Steve Smith 66-yard catch in the fourth quarter.

When I watched the play live I thought one thing but after watching it again on tape, I'm more confused as to who was at fault on the play. It just looked bad from all angles.

First, on the snap Corey White who was lined up over Smith looked to take off for a blitz but stopped mid-stride. Smith then ran an out and up route. Patrick Robinson was guarding the outside receiver and followed him on the in-route. It appeared Robinson should have stayed on the outside as Malcolm Jenkins jumped the inside route by the outside receiver. This left Smith wide open. Newton saw it, threw it and 66 yards later the Panthers essentially iced the game.

Missed Opportunities

Drew Brees said after the game that the game came down to six or seven plays that had they made just one or two them, the outcome may have been different.

I've pinpointed three.

-On the Saints third offensive drive of the game; they marched down the field once again to inside the Panthers' five yard line. But on second and goal something happened that I truly don't think I've ever seen: Lance Moore dropped a pass. It was the same pass Moore made an acrobatic catch on the 2-point conversion the Super Bowl. That drop combined with Jimmy Graham's drop forced the Saints to kick a field goal.

-On the drive right after the big Smith 66-yard completion in the fourth quarter, the Saints moved the ball well. But that's when the Panthers made two great defensive plays. The first came on third down when Brees threw a deep route to a wide open Jimmy Graham. The play appeared to be a sure touchdown until Chris Gamble stuck his hand out at the last second and swatted the pass.

-On the very next play, the Saints faced a 4th down, when Brees dropped back to pass. Zach Strief actually gave pretty good protection on the play. Brees stepped up in the pocket, but just as Charles Johnson turned the corner, he stuck his hand and knocked the ball out of Brees' hand. Brees eventually recovered and threw a desperation heave that fell incomplete. The Saints turned the ball over on downs. It was the only drive they didn't score on in the fourth quarter.

Other Observations

- I have run out of adjectives to describe my respect for Pierre Thomas. All he does is produce. He's not a combine freak. He's not an electrifying athlete. He's just an outstanding football player. Thomas was the calm in the storm on Sunday who, almost single-handedly, kept the Saints in the game. He finished with 13 touches for 143 yards. But a player not as tough as Thomas would have gained half of those yards as Thomas broke tackle after tackle. When in doubt find #23.

- Thomas and the entire running back group was the BEST thing about Sunday's loss. This team had the SIXTH best rushing attack in the NFL last year. Plus, every back's skill set is diverse enough to complement each player. I hope the Saints learned their lesson from week one and continue to maintain a solid rushing attack in 2012.

- I'm not certain the intentional grounding call on Brees was accurate. It looked like Sproles was near the pass. It doesn't have to go past the line of scrimmage when a player is near. If that were the case then every incomplete screen would be intentional grounding. The penalty turned out to be huge. As I described above, the loss of yardage forced the Saints to punt and not try for a field goal that could've cut the lead to 28-16.

- The sad thing about that play though wasn't the call; it's that the Panthers rushed THREE players on that play. Yet Greg Hardy still burst through Jermon Bushrod and Ben Grubbs fairly easily, for the sack.

- Speaking of officials, having to remove one hour before the game because he was a Saints fan was absolutely unbelievable. But falls right in line with what the Saints have gone through these last few months.

- I know a lot of fans are concerned with the offensive line play thus far. I understand why. They did play a little bit better on Sunday. But still not good enough. Unlike last week against Washington when they struggled to identify blitzers pre-snap, this week it appeared too many times players were losing one-on-one battles with their defender. That's incredibly discouraging for a unit that's constantly blocking with just five guys. Rarely, do the Saints have a max protect look with a tight end. Jimmy Graham is too valuable in the passing game for that.

- The Brees pick six was a bad decision that turned out to be a huge momentum booster in the game. It may have only been the third drive, but at that time the Saints had all momentum. As for the play, Brees knows better. Dave Thomas was covered and the absolute most that play would've gained was a yard. The risk just was not worth the reward.

- I'm not sure who that imposter was wearing #12 for the Saints. He just does not look right. I hope it's as simple as he's not 100% healthy like the coaches say.

- Corey White is going to see Brandon Lafell in his sleep.

- Joe Morgan may beat everyone on the team in a foot race. But this isn't the Olympics, its football. What good is he if he can't catch passes? Morgan has not earned the trust of his teammates and should not be on the field until he does.

- Three words that will help the Saints defense: Martez, Junior, Akiem. All three of these players are young but all three are impact players who must get more snaps. The only time I saw Wilson and Galette in on the same play was the one time Cam Newton looked rattled. Wilson rushed from the outside; Galette stunted on the inside to force a throwaway by Newton and gave the ball back to the Saints.

Looking Ahead

Welcome to a week three must-win situation. The Saints have to get back on track this week. I believe they will.

Saints 31

Chiefs 17

 

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