The Carolina Panthers shouldn’t have had much of a chance to beat the New Orleans Saints on Monday night. Drew Brees and company had been running roughshod over the league while the Panthers were handing out touchdowns like Oprah Winfrey hands out free cars.
Instead, the unthinkable almost happened.
The Panthers almost won. The defense shut down the Saints offense and even scored two points on a Donte Jackson pick-two. It was one of the best performances we’ve seen this defense put on all season, even though it came in a loss. It was also a reminder that this unit somehow remembers how to play football at home while leaving their talent behind when they hit the road.
The Panthers pass defense varies wildly depending on where the game is being played. At home, the Panthers have held opponents to an 82.7 passer rating thanks in large part to 11 interceptions and a 6.9 yards per attempt average. Meanwhile Panthers opponents have posted a 116.0 passer rating while averaging 7.8 yards per attempts and tossing 15 touchdowns against just one interception. You know who threw that interception?
That brings us to our keys:
- Force a turnover or four. The Falcons quarterback is the only player in the entire NFL to be intercepted by a Panthers player on his home turf. Sure, he inexplicably gashed the Panthers for two rushing scores and nearly 10 yards per pass attempt, but he did that one bad thing that no one else has done all season. And we’re going to cling to that. Because if Matt Ryan can throw and interception in Atlanta, surely he’ll throw three or four or five in Charlotte.
- Show Tevin Coleman that we mean business. Coleman rushed for 107 yards on 16 carries the last time these two teams met. It was the only time he crossed the century mark all season before the Cardinals sieve of a defense last week. The Panthers have been mostly good at stopping the run this season. This is their chance to exact some revenge on the Falcons tailback.
- Don’t get hurt. Someone is probably going to yell at me for saying this out loud or in words, but that’s okay. The season is essentially lost. It’s time to have some fun, get some reps in, and get ready for next year. Let’s not get hurt along the way.
This game doesn’t really mean anything in the grand scheme of things. It’s time to watch some stress free Panthers football, and maybe they’ll give us some stuff to be happy about on a Sunday. If not, oh well.