Panthers 13 Saints 31: Post-Game Reaction

Wesley Hitt

Here's what was said after the Panthers saw their 8 game winning streak snapped like a dry twig on a cold winter morning.

(How's that for a good metaphor...jealous TMG?) Getting serious now...so what the hell happened?

Saints 31, Panthers 13

"We didn't execute," linebacker Thomas Davis said. "That's what it boils down to. When you are on the road you have to be able to handle adversity. We didn't do a very good job of that today."

Okay, in general terms I agree. I was hoping for something more specific.

Saints made Carolina D look average - Carolina Panthers Blog - ESPN
"It's frustrating," linebacker Thomas Davis said. "And to know we can go out and play better and not have that happen ... that's very disappointing."

Again, I agree, I felt it too. Disappointment is definitely there. But what specifically happened?

Panthers' 8-game win streak ended by Saints 31-13 - Appeal-Democrat: Games

"You get down in the red zone, you have to score touchdowns," Rivera said. "You can't beat a good team, especially a team that is as explosive as these guys are and expect to win with field goals."

Okay, we blew it early on offense. But what about the defense giving up 31 points?

Upon Further Review: Carolina Panthers Week 14 - ESPN

Legion of Gloom: For whatever reason, the Panthers weren't nearly as physical with receivers coming off the line as they game planned to be. They were soft, particularly in the middle of the field where Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham caught two touchdowns each. It's a problem that has crept up from time to time during the season, but never as consistently as it did on this night. It must be addressed immediately for the Panthers to have a chance at making the playoffs and advancing. They can't be the Legion of Gloom as they were dubbed earlier this year.

So if we saw the Saint WRs getting a free release and that was not the plan why did we continue to let it happen? I guess that is for them to figure out this week. So is this a fatal blow to our playoff hopes? Where do we go from here?

Panthers coach Ron Rivera: 'Maybe we got a little full of ourselves' - ESPN

"I expect them to respond very well," Rivera said. "As I told them last night, this is a very humbling experience. Maybe we need a little bit of that. Maybe we got a little full of ourselves and thought we were capable of just showing up. "I'm not saying that's what we did, because there was some bright spots. We did some good things early."

But overall, there were way too many fundamental mistakes, the kind a potential playoff team shouldn't make at this point in the season. "I thought we would know our opponent better," Rivera said. "I thought we would play better situational football, and we didn't. There were basic fundamental things that we messed up -- as we like to say, '

Football 101 mistakes.' "Leverage. Being in the right coverage leverage position. Knowing where my help was coming from. Knowing who I'm blocking on specific plays. Knowing my route depth. What is my initial read? These are basic fundamentals we messed up."

Rivera seems to have that list memorized. So can he sell it to the team?

Panthers disappointed but determined
"I'd rather get my butt kicked now than four weeks from now (in the playoffs). We're still a good team," left tackle Jordan Gross said. "9-4 is great. You'd love to be 13-0, but at 9-4 you're right in the mix of the playoff picture. "The worst thing we could do is hang our heads and mope around and let one loss turn into two."

It looks like Rivera has a lot of help to keep this team focused on the prize. So is it all bad. Consider this, in spite of how bad it seemed this game was the defense held all of its rankings:

At least Carolina Panthers contributed to TD record - ESPN
The Panthers actually moved up a spot to first in the league against the run after holding New Orleans to 69 yards, with 38 of that coming on a run by Darren Sproles. Despite giving up four touchdown passes and 313 yards passing, they moved up a spot to fifth in pass defense. Despite giving up a season-high 31 points, they remained No. 1 in scoring defense with 188 point allowed (14.1 pg.). Seattle is second, allowing 205 (15.7).

I realize stats don't mean squat in the end but it shows you how well this defense has played in those first 12 games to give up 31 and still lead in points allowed.

One last comment, this time from Drew Brees. I have to give him some props for his analysis of the game:

Brees sharp in rout of Carolina | Pensacola News Journal | pnj.com

"We just had great balance and a lot of guys made plays," Brees said. "Marques came up with some huge catches, as did Jimmy. The line did a great job. We mixed and matched the personnel groups and what we were doing and defense did a great job of getting us the ball and giving us opportunities."

He certainly has a lot more class than some of the fans we have encountered the past 24 hours.

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