New Orleans Saints
What went right? With injuries piling up and taking their opponents' best shot every week, the Saints are still 3-1. Against the Panthers on Sunday, with running backs Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush sidelined due to injury, the defending champs tallied their best rushing game of the season. Backup Chris Ivory and the recently acquired Ladell Betts lead the Saints to 121 yards on the ground.
What went wrong? The Panthers had no business leading this game well into the fourth quarter. The Saints held the ball for nearly 40 minutes but turned the ball over twice in the red zone. Carolina hit on two big plays, a 55-yard Jonathan Stewart catch-and-run for a touchdown and a 39-yard DeAngelo Williams scamper to keep the game closer than most thought it would be.
What question needs to be answered? Alarm bells will sound if the Saints lose one of their next three games (at Arizona, at Tampa Bay, home to Cleveland). Can they get healthy and fire on all cylinders before they welcome the Steelers on Halloween?
What went right? The Falcons followed up their big victory in New Orleans by winning a game that they should have won, even though it wasn't pretty. Kicker Matt Bryant was the hero again as he booted three field goals, the last of which put the Falcons ahead for good with six seconds left. Bryant's last field goal would never have happened were it not for the hustle of WR Roddy White, who chased down 49ers CB Nate Clements and stripped the ball away after Clements intercepted Matt Ryan for what appeared to be the game-clinching interception.
What went wrong? San Francisco sprinted out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. The points came from an 88-yard touchdown drive and a blocked punt that was recovered in the end zone. A well coached team with even an above-average offense would not have let the Falcons back into the game. If the Falcons are going to be a serious contender, this can't happen against the likes of Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Baltimore and Green Bay, who all make appearances on the schedule in the coming weeks.
What question needs to be answered? Can the Falcons win a game in which their opponent doesn't blunder away a win in the fourth quarter?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
What went right? The Buccaneers had an early bye in Week 4 following their home loss to the Steelers. Rookie receiver Arrelious Benn has been taking reps with the first team and could be starting alongside fellow rookie Mike Williams when the Bucs travel to Cincinnati this week.
What went wrong? After working out several free agents the Bucs decided to not sign another safety to help out a defensive backfield that was beaten badly by Charlie Batch and the Steelers' offense in Week 3. Instead, Raheem Morris will stay with rookie Cody Grimm and a rotation of players to fill in for suspended Tanard Jackson.
What question needs to be answered? Can the running back committee of Cadillac Williams, Earnest Graham and LeGarrette Blount control time of possession and keep the ball away from a Bengals offense featuring Terrell Owens, who had 10 catches for 222 yards and a touchdown last week?
Michael Stolp is a graduate of Wilkes University with a degree in Communications. He grew up in Piscataway, N.J., and recently relocated to Charlotte, NC. To follow his personal blog, click here.
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