Panthers Offensive Line is the MVP against Saints
The offensive line has been a jumbled mess for most of the year and today’s game marked the first time in the past eight weeks that they had the same starting five from the week prior. This was arguably the best this group has played across the line from left tackle to right tackle.
In their first matchup between these two teams, Cam Newton was sacked four times but today the Saints weren’t able to get a single sack. This was only the second time all year that Newton wasn’t sacked a single time. It shouldn’t be a coincidence that Newton had one of his best games of the season with over 300 total yards and three touchdowns.
The Panthers quarterback wasn’t the only person to benefit from the improved play of the offensive line. The run game, led by Jonathan Stewart, put together an impressive game with over 270 yards rushing. Stewart had the big play of the day when he exploded for a 69-yard touchdown run at the start of the third quarter, which was the final nail in the coffin for a Saints comeback.
If the offensive line continues to play like this, Cam Newton and the offense have to feel much better about their final three games.
The Panthers secondary has a ton of potential
The Panthers entered this game with two rookies (Bene Benwikere and Tre Boston) starting in their secondary today and were going up against one of the better quarterbacks in the league. This usually isn’t a recipe for success. Well these guys didn’t play like rookies as they held Drew Brees to his second lowest passing total (235 yards) in two years.
The secondary was really the catalyst for this defense and helped this team to jump out to a quick lead. On the Saints first drive, cornerback Josh Norman forced a fumble that was recovered by defensive tackle Colin Cole. On the first play of the very next drive, Benwikere intercepted Brees on a deep pass to Joe Morgan.
That was it for the turnovers but all game the secondary had a strong game and was all over the field. If the secondary can continue to play like this, the defense is going to be very hard to beat the rest of the season.
Special Teams Continues to Struggle
If there is one negative that came from today’s game it is the fact that the special teams is just bad, specifically their kick coverage. In a game that seemed like everything was firing on all cylinders, the one thing that stood out was this unit and not in a good way.
Saints’ punt returner Jalen Saunders had three punt returns and two of them he was able to return for over 30 yards. The Saints only returned one kickoff from the Panthers but Travaris Cadet was able to return it 28 yards.
These are the type of plays that can change the momentum of a game and swing field position. If this type of play continues, it might make sense to instruct Brad Nortman to kick the ball out of bounds. The Panthers would benefit more from a kick that went out of bounds 30 yards down the field than one that goes 45 and is returned 20 yards.
Luckily for the Panthers this unit didn’t hurt them today but in closer games these plays could be the deciding factor in the outcome.