Saintsinsider.com: Week 7 review

The New Orleans Saints are in London preparing for Sunday's game with San Diego. But before the Chargers, get the complete wrap-up from the Saints' Week 7 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Get exclusive news, analysis and unit grades right here.

After having to play without wide receiver Marques Colston for five games and tight end Jeremy Shockey for three, the Saints couldn't wait to get them both back on the field.

They got their wish Sunday when Colston returned from a torn ligament in his left thumb and Shockey was in uniform for the first time since having sports hernia surgery on Sept. 23.

But the thought of what the two playmakers could add to the NFL's top-ranked passing game was lost in a 30-7 setback at Carolina. The day started with Shockey possibly re-injuring himself on the Saints' first offensive play, and ended with Colston on the sideline and Shockey's frustrations boiling over from his injury.

Shockey caught a 9-yard pass from Drew Brees on that first play and finished with a team-high five receptions for 50 yards. But Colston had a pair of drops and didn't catch a pass while wearing a split to protect the injured thumb.

Shockey, who was stripped by Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers after catching a pass on a tight end screen, later missed a block on a fourth-and-2 play in the fourth quarter at the Panthers' 3.

That led to a postgame meeting with reporters in which he said his injury, which happened in training camp, was misdiagnosed by Saints' doctors and that his problem could have been fixed much earlier -- forcing him to play on one leg early in the season.

Shockey, who said he wasn't in as much pain Sunday afternoon as he was in trying to play the first three games, expressed hope that the "marble-sized" spot he felt in the affected area was just a little setback.

"The doctor said that maybe a little scar tissue might pop, so maybe it's just that," he said. "It's only been like four weeks since I had the surgery. It's not a three- to six-week recovery time. It's really five to seven weeks."

Likewise, Colston was not thrilled about his return. He said he was removed late in the game because he wasn't productive enough. Despite having 171 receptions in 31 career games before Sunday, he did not have a catch for only the third time in two-plus seasons.

"I don't think (the thumb) was that much of an issue," he said. "I wasn't productive, so they pulled me from the game and got a guy in there that was able to make plays today.

"Through the week, I thought I was ready. In pregame, I thought I was ready. Then, I got out on the field and just wasn't able to make the plays that I normally make. Unfortunately, I ended up hurting the team in the process."

WEATHERFORD'S BAD GAME TURNS INTO RELEASE: Saints punter Steve Weatherford only thought he may have had a bad game against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

But it got much worse after the Saints' 30-7 loss to the Panthers. Weatherford, who punted five times for a 35.4 average with a net of just 30.2 yards, was cut after the game and wasn't on the team's chartered flight when it left for London and Sunday's game with the San Diego Chargers.

Weatherford went into the game averaging 43.7 yards a kick, had punts of 31, 37, 36 and 39 yards -- dropping two inside the 20. His second punt was returned 24 yards and the third was brought back 21 yards although the Panthers were guilty of an illegal block above the waist.

Saints coach Sean Payton said Monday the decision to release Weatherford, an undrafted free agent who joined the Saints in 2006, wasn't made on one game.

"I just think that in the end, it became a challenge with consistency," Payton said. "We just felt like it hadn't gotten any better and it had actually dropped off. It was something that we did discuss prior to the game. We felt like we didn't have the consistency we wanted yesterday, but it wasn't just one game. The evaluation was more than just one game."

On Monday, the Saints signed former New York Jets punter Ben Graham to take Weatherford's roster spot.

HOW'D THE PANTHERS DO THAT?: The Panthers did a number in clamping down on the NFL's most productive passing offense through six games in their impressive victory over the Saints on Sunday.

Playing aggressively and jumping routes more than they had in the past, the Panthers limited the Saints to just 228 net yards through the air. The Saints went into the game averaging a league-best 324.7 yards per contest.

Red-hot quarterback Drew Brees, who averaged 333.5 passing yards with eight touchdowns in the previous four games, was 21-of-39 for 231 yards and one interception -- producing a season-low passer rating of 61.0.

The Saints had just 108 passing yards after three quarters and Brees, who came into the game hitting on 71.0 percent of his passes, was just 13-of-27 at that point.

GOING LOW: The seven points scored by the Saints was the lowest total of coach Sean Payton's 41-game tenure with the team. Their only touchdown came on a 1-yard blast by fullback Mike Karney on the first play of the second quarter.

It was the second time in three games the Saints scored just one offensive touchdown. In a 30-27 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 6, two of their three TDs came on punt returns by Reggie Bush.

The Saints' previous low scoring total under Payton was 10 points, which happened three times -- vs. Washington in 2006 (16-10) and at Indianapolis (41-10) and at Houston (23-10) in 2007.

BUSH HOBBLED: Bush caught just one pass for 5 yards Sunday before tearing the meniscus in his left knee while returning a punt on the final play of the first half.

The one reception ended a streak that saw him catch at least two passes in every game of his three-year NFL career -- which covered 34 games before Sunday's meeting with the Panthers.

LOSING ON THE ROAD: The Saints have now lost four straight road games, dating to a 33-25 loss at Chicago in the 2007 season finale. They also lost at Washington and Denver in Weeks 2 and 3 and at Carolina this year.

It's the longest road losing streak under Payton, who is 10-9 on the road in the regular season after winning 10 of his first 15 away from the Superdome.

PLAYER NOTES

RB Reggie Bush was scheduled to have surgery on a torn left meniscus on Monday in Birmingham, Ala. He will be sidelined for Sunday's game with the San Diego Chargers and likely will be out two to four weeks.

P Steve Weatherford was cut immediately after the Saints' 30-7 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. He punted five times for a 5.4 average and had a net of just 30.2 yards.

P Ben Graham, who played from 2005-08 with the New York Jets, was signed by the Saints on Monday to take Weatherford's roster spot.

C Jonathan Goodwin injured his left knee in the second quarter of Sunday's game with the Panthers and his status for the contest with the Chargers was not known Monday.

WR Marques Colston, who tore a ligament in his left thumb in the season opener, was active Sunday after being sidelined for five games.

TE Jeremy Shockey played for the first time since undergoing surgery on Sept. 23 to correct a sports hernia.

DT Sedrick Ellis has missed three games since having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Oct. 3 and his availability for Sunday was not known Monday.

WR David Patten was inactive on Sunday for the third straight game because of a groin injury and his return is unknown.

CB Aaron Glenn missed his fifth consecutive game with a right ankle injury, but coach Sean Payton said he's close to returning to the field.

DT Antwan Lake was inactive for Sunday's game because of a recurring groin injury and his return is uncertain.

WR Terrance Copper, who was released by the Saints early last week, was re-signed on Friday.

DT Montavious Stanley was put on injured reserve Friday after tearing a biceps muscle.

REPORT CARD VS. PANTHERS

PASSING OFFENSE: D -- Most teams would take the numbers the Saints had, but they were rather ordinary for the NFL's top-ranked passing team. Drew Brees, who was under pressure most of the day, completed 21 of 39 passes for 231 yards, but he had no touchdowns and one interception and finished with a season-low passer rating of 61.0. The Panthers' secondary did a nice job putting the clamps on the wide receivers, who caught just seven passes for 99 yards, so Brees was forced to throw the underneath routes to tight ends Jeremy Shockey, who had a team-best five catches for 50 yards, and Billy Miller, who had four receptions for 56 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- For the first time this season, the Saints averaged more than 4.0 yards per carry. They found some nice running lanes early and finished with 115 yards and a 5.2 average on 22 attempts. Reggie Bush got off to a good start with 55 yards and a long of 29 yards on nine first-half carries, but he didn't play in the second half after injuring his left knee. Deuce McAllister added 47 yards on nine attempts. Fullback Mike Karney scored their only touchdown on a 1-yard run in the second quarter.

PASS DEFENSE: D -- After a solid performance in a win over the Oakland Raiders one week earlier, the Saints took a step backward at Carolina. Jake Delhomme was effective when he needed to be in connecting on 14 of 22 passes for 195 yards with two TDs and no interceptions. He was sacked just once and had a passer rating of 122.3. Longtime Saints nemesis Steve Smith caught six passes for 122 yards, including a 39-yard TD in the third quarter in which he got behind two defenders to extend the Panthers' lead to 20-7. In addition to his 39-yard TD, Smith had receptions of 19, 24 and 29 yards.

RUSH DEFENSE: D -- The Saints reverted to their early-season form in allowing 143 yards as Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams had 68 and 66 yards, respectively. Stewart, who scampered 18 yards for the Panthers' first touchdown in the second quarter, averaged 4.0 yards on 17 carries and Williams, who reeled off a long run of 17 yards, averaged 3.7 yards on 18 attempts. The only positive for the Saints was the Panthers gained 3.9 yards per carry on 37 total attempts.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- The Saints were average in the return game, getting 6.8 yards on four punt returns and were a little better in getting 27.0 yards on four kickoff returns. They were poor in kick coverage, however, as Carolina averaged 13.0 yards on two punt returns with a long of 24 and 24.0 yards on two kickoff returns. Punter Steve Weatherford averaged 35.4 yards on five kicks and had a net of 30.2 yards although he did drop two punts inside the 20.

COACHING: C -- After getting his team ready for a blowout win over the Raiders on a short week following a Monday night contest, Sean Payton's team was simply overmatched against the Panthers. They allowed Carolina to be more physical and aggressive on both sides of the ball and the Saints had no answer most of the afternoon. It wasn't a good effort considering the downtrodden Saints had to leave immediately after the game for a seven-hour flight to London for Sunday's game with the San Diego Chargers.


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