It is tough to give the Panthers defensive line a grade because they were very up and down. Defensive tackle Dwan Edwards was the star with an interception, sack, two tackles for a loss, and one pass defended. The Panthers as a whole did an excellent job of getting to Brees with four sacks and three QB hits.
The downside with this group was they could not control the line of scrimmage and stop Mark Ingram. The former Heisman trophy winner ran the ball 30 times and grinded out 100 yards and two touchdowns. This front four needs to get stronger at the point of attack and close up running lanes.
Mark Ingram’s big day falls on this group as much as it does the defensive linemen. When a team has two linebackers like Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, opposing offenses should not be able to pound the rock like teams have this year. The biggest disappointment out of the defense was that they seemed to lose their intensity as the game went on.
When the game started, they were flying around the field and making a statement. On the opening drive, Thomas Davis knocked Jimmy Graham on his back during the interception return. In a way this was sending a message that they were frustrated and wanted to take it out on New Orleans. As the game went on, they seemed to lose that attitude. The team needs their leaders (Kuechly and Davis) to find a way to fire the defense back up when they lose this attitude.
As bad as the defensive line and linebackers look at times, nothing compares to the Panthers secondary. Right now they are a mess and it seems like the coaching staff doesn’t know what to do. The coaching staff pulled two of their starters (Antoine Cason and Tre Boston) out of the game at different points.
Cason came out late in the first half and was replaced by Melvin White; yes the same Melvin White who has been benched at times this year and didn’t play a single snap against Seattle. The rookie Boston, who filled in for the injured Thomas Decoud, was taken out in the fourth quarter and replaced by Robert Lester. This isn’t as big of an issue as Cason because once DeCoud is healthy he will be back in the lineup.
It was a rather uneventful game for the special teams unit with Brad Nortman doing everything he could to win the field position battle. He had six punts; three of them downed inside the 20, and averaged 42.2 yards per punt.
Graham Gano once again was reliable making his one extra point attempt and one field goal attempt of 31 yards. He is now 17 of 19 on field goal attempts this season with a long of 53 yards.