Mistakes Almost Cost the Panthers the Game
A win is always the end goal but this was probably the worst game the Carolina Panthers have played all season. Simply, the Panthers did not look sharp in this game from turnovers (3), penalties (8 for 87 yards), a blocked extra point returned for two points to drop passes by a number of wide receivers.
There could be a number of reasons why the Panthers' struggled in this game from the long layoff, they hadn't played in 10 days, to a loss of focus due to the fact that they won the NFC South division title due to the Atlanta Falcons losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers prior to their game.
This has been uncharateristic of the Panthers this year as they have not really struggled in these departments so this game certainly could be an anomaly. This should be a point of emphasis for Ron Rivera and the rest of the coaching staff during practice and shouldn't carry over next week against the Atlanta Falcons.
Best and Worst of Cam Newton
Fans got to see the best and worst of Cam Newton against the New Orleans Saints as he had highlight reel plays with plays that made you want to pull your hair out. He finished the game completing 28 of 41 passes for 331 passing yards, five touchdown passes with 49 rushing yards and one interception.
For a majority of the game Newton looked like he has for most of the season, moving the ball around and completing passes to eight players with four of those players catching touchdown passes. Also at one point in the game, Newton completed 15 straight passes and looked dialed in.
However, there was other times where Newton looked like he had earlier in his careers where his passes were erratic. There was a couple of times where Newton missed Panthers' wide open down the field throwing the ball over their heads and then other times when rolling out of the pocket, throwing it short.
The best part of Newton's game though, and this is something that hasn't changed much, is his ability to play his best when it matters most. Against the Saints, Newton threw two of his five touchdown passes in the final quarter of the game.
Streaks Continue, Streak Brokens
The Carolina Panthers, and their players, against the New Orleans Saints saw some streaks continue, while some streaks ended in New Orleans.
The longest streak the Panthers currently have right now is 23 straight games with 100 or more rushing yards. Against the Saints, the Panthers ran for 175 rushing yards led by Jonathan Stewart who carried it 21 times for 82 yards and one rushing touchdown. Stewart has been a true workhorse for this offense and has already surpassed his career high in rushing attempts (221) with four games left in the regular season.
Safety Kurt Coleman had his streak continue with an interception of Drew Brees in the second half, which is now four straight games with a pick. He sits one interception back of Reggie Nelson for the league lead in this category. The free agent acquisition has been playing tremendously this year and has been a steal for this defense.
One streak did end in New Orleans though as Kony Ealy was not able to register a sack and saw that end at five straight games with a sack. The pass rush wasn't as dominant as it has been the past couple weeks with only two sacks, by Thomas Davis and Kawann Short, but this certainly could be due to Drew Brees ability to get rid of the ball quickly.
At the end of the day though, the one streak that truly matters, is the one that remained in tack: the Panthers' undefeated streak. The Panthers moved to 12-0 on the season and now have won 16 straight regular seasons. The team has now won the division, secured a playoff spot but must continue to win if they want the NFC playoffs to run through Charlotte. The Arizona Cardinals won again on Sunday and are only two games back of the Panthers for the conference lead.