Saints Offense Breakdown and Keys to the Panther Defense

CHARLOTTE NC - SEPTEMBER 26: Cedric Benson #32 of the Cincinnati Bengals is tackled by Chris Gamble #20 of the Carolina Panthers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on September 26 2010 in Charlotte North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

This week we have a familiar foe with the New Orleans Saints. At 0-3 my outlook on the season is quite different than it was three weeks ago. Instead of the full out optimism with playoff potential, the Panthers are a team looking for their first win and have no idea when it will come. Is it too early to already be looking forward to the offseason.

With the high probability of a down season I'll do my best to keep a positive outlook each week. My goal each week is to stay away from the easy pick and look at who I believe will either be a breakout player or will be key in pulling out a victory. In fantasy football terms my sleeper pick each week. Of course my other goal will be to give everyone a general overview of our opponent, what type of team we are facing and if we were to exploit any weakness what it might be.

As a division rival the Saints are all too familiar. There is little we don't know about the Saints. Currently the Saints are tied for the division lead at 2-1 with the Falcons, however, if not for an errant kicker this past weekend they would have won their game and would be 3-0. Their strength is in their high powered offense by averaging over 28 points in their last 11 games dating back to last season (why 11, I don't know just picked a number. Also, before that was when they were really on fire putting up over 40 each game). While not as high scoring as they were last season they have an average of 21 points this year and only rank 14th, in the middle of the road. In addition they have 331 total yards (13th) and 273.7 passing yards (6th). They have a 42% third down completion ratio (11th) and only 12 offensive penalties (4th least) for only 112 yards. Their offense has held the ball an average of 31:13 each game (14th) and have only 3 lost TO (1 fumble, 2 interceptions). Brees has a QB rating of 107.6 this season, thrown for 856 yards with a 75.9% completion ratio and 6 TD. Their offensive line has allowed 5 sacks (tied 9th with seven other teams) and 9 QB hits (ranked 7th least with one other team). Finally their Coach, Sean Payton, while he has been called many things, conservative is not one of them. Many of these numbers are average but the Saints have serious offensive weapons and are not afraid to use them.

Their running game is a slightly different story. Currently they rank last in rush yards per game with only a 57.3 yard average. Yet even this statistic is a bit misleading. One reason it's so low is the way they use their running backs, Pierre Thomas leads the team with 17 total receptions. They basically treat screen and dump off passes as an extended handoff. With last in league rush yard per game come a league 5th least rush attempts with 65. In total they have rushed for 172 yards for a measly average of 2.6 yards per carry.

For the last two years the NFL has been collecting offensive line stats regarding rushing attempts, rushing attempts resulting in a first down, rushes for negative yards, rushes for 10+ yards, and power rushes success percentage (3rd and 4th down with less than 2 yards and all downs inside opponent's 2 yard line. Then they divide the stats by left, center, right. The following are the Saints stats:

 

1st

Neg

10+

Pwr

Left

5

3

2

100%

Right

3

0

1

100%

Center

2

2

0

0%

This in a nutshell is what the Saints are about-throw the hell out of the ball. In order for the Panther D to do their part in defeating the Saints, here are my two overall and one individual player keys to the game.

Safeties-Provide help over the top:

Brees doesn't hesitate to send the ball to whoever is on the field and thus how do you slow down it down? Last year at near the end of the season the team moved more to a cover 1 near the middle of the season (as posted by James this offseason). The question is do we have the personal to pull of such a game plan again. While I won't attempt to predict we will make this adjustment this week I do believe the key players on the defense will be Sherrod Martin and Charles Godfrey. They will need to provide strong coverage assistant to the cornerbacks to keep the receivers in check.

Hands-Hold onto the ball:

While some QB's can't hit the broadside of a barn, Brees is the epitome of accuracy. He's currently lead the NFL in completed passes, lead it last year and since his time with the Saints have always been in the top ten not dropping 64%. Last week the defense was given gift wrapped interceptions but couldn't hold on. They also need to make the most of the interception opportunities as the D left several balls go through their hands. Because of Brees accuracy those chances will be less, thus the Panthers D must capitalize on opportunities. Some might say getting to the QB will be the key, but while important, I don't think it will be as important as getting the interceptions.

Key Player:

Because the Saints use multiple WR sets the person that needs to step up the most is Richard Marshall. In reality it boils down to the whole secondary playing lights out. Yet I feel they most comfortable with Gamble and Munnerlyn doing their job and therefore I'm most concerned about Marshall keeping his receivers in check.

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