Cat Tracks For New Orleans

<P>For a while it looked like we'd be writing "everytime Steve Smith gets a kick return for a touchdown, the Panthers win". Not quite. Rookie Smith put, what should have been, the winning points on the board with a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown with under two minutes to go. By and large the special teams played well, but Smith is still having trouble hanging onto the ball. CAT TRACKS: 3 PAWS (OUT OF FOUR)

QUARTERBACK

This is one we can split into two semesters. First semester, Chris Weinke hit just 7-20 for 71 yards. He also threw an interception and lost two fumbles. He did lead two scoring drives before the end of the half...give him 1/2 PAW. Second half, Weinke goes 14-19 with two touchdowns. He showed enough poise to put the awful first half behind him and lead his team in a comeback...give him 3 PAWS for the second semester. So, 3 1/2 divided by two...we'll do a small round up for a final CAT TRACKS score of 2 PAWS

RUNNING BACK

Still not much here, just 34 yards against a tough Saint front four that dominated this team a year ago. Tshimanga Biakabutuka had just 30 yards on 13 carries...but did gain 47 on one pass play. He's still having trouble hanging onto the ball as well. CAT TRACKS: 1 PAW

RECEIVERS

Play calling has something to do with this, as they're not looking for guys like Muhsin Muhammad and Wesley Walls enough. They finally started looking at Walls, and he ended up with a touchdown and 5 catches. Muhammad had just 2 catches for 8 yards before leaving with a hip bruise. Why don't they look downfield more? Donald Hayes had 7 catches...the longest was for 12 yards. CAT TRACKS: 2 PAWS

OFFENSIVE LINE

Still no running game here, but the sack number was a vast improvement over a year ago when the Saints recorded 8 in each meeting. There was just one. CAT TRACKS: 2 PAWS

DEFENSIVE LINE

Ricky Williams 147 yards rushing, Aaron Brooks 49 yards on the ground. They had to know the final play would go to Williams, and still barely got a finger on him. CAT TRACKS: 1 PAW

LINEBACKERS

We'll give a little consideration here to the fact that this unit was really banged up. They still have to share in the blame for Williams' big day, and for the Saints' ability to complete short passes on that final drive. CAT TRACKS: 1 1/2 PAWS

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Doug Evans got a pick for a team-record fourth straight game, but dropped the one that would have sealled the win. Aaron Brooks completed just 14-40 passes but, still found guys in a drive that should have been the defense's moment to shine. CAT TRACKS: 1 PAW

COACHING

Fumbles and penalties continue to plague this team. It's getting to the point that the finger of blame is pointing to lack of discipline and that means poor coaching. The decision to go for it on 4th and 2 from the 5 in the first half when they were down 17-0 was a bad one. Put points on the board and start the comeback...especially following a turnover. Questionable decisions are happening like this each game. And, the play call in that instance was awful. CAT TRACKS: 1/2 PAW


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