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Five key stats from the Panthers’ Week 3 win over the Saints

The unlikely duo of Marquis Haynes and Laviska Shenault found the end zone in a much needed Panthers victory.

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NFL: New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

In Week 3 the Carolina Panthers snapped the NFL’s longest losing streak with a gratifying 22-14 home victory over their division rival, the New Orleans Saints. The victory at least temporarily dissipated the thick, dark clouds of apathy and frustration that have hung over the Carolinas for way too long. While all is definitely not well with the Panthers, we can enjoy some sunshine this week. Here are the key stats that led to Carolina’s victory:

44 yards - The Panthers first score was a 44-yard fumble return scoop-and-score by Marquis Haynes after Frankie Luvu violently stripped the ball from Alvin Kamara. The Panthers desperately needed these points. Carolina’s first possession lasted four plays and 15 yards. Their second possession was a three-and-out. This early defensive touchdown put the Panthers up 7-0 with over five minutes left in the first quarter and gave Carolina a huge surge of momentum.

-11 yards - The Panthers led 13-0 at halftime. The Saints received the third quarter kickoff and methodically drove down to the Carolina 19 and seemed poised to put points on the board. On third-and-11 Jeremy Chinn burst through the line and sacked Jameis Winston for an 11 yard loss. Chinn’s big play pushed the Saints back to the 30 and forced kicker Wil Lutz into a more challenging 48-yard field goal attempt. Lutz pushed the kick wide and the Panthers retained their 13-point lead.

0 points - Carolina’s defense and special teams pitched a shutout through three quarters. Just before the half the Saints attempted a “gimme” 30-yard field goal which was blocked by reserve defensive end Henry Anderson. The defense bottled up Alvin Kamara after his 27-yard scamper on his first rush of the game. Phil Snow called a brilliant game that shut down the Saints rushing attack while pressuring Jameis Winston in the passing game.

67 yards - With 12:19 left in the game the Saints had just cut the Panthers lead to 13-7. Despite a fantastic outing from the defense and special teams, Carolina’s offense was sputtering and the Panthers were just one Saints touchdown away from another crushing loss. It was then when Baker Mayfield threw a short pass to Laviska Shenault Jr. toward the left sideline. Shenault made the first man miss, juked a second defender, then sprinted 67 yards for a massive touchdown. After a failed two-point conversion, the Panthers now led 19-7 and had just enough cushion to put the game away.

6 quarterback hits - Jameis Winston came into this game physically banged up and with a long history of tossing interceptions when pressured. Panthers defensive coordinator Phil Snow called a masterful game with these two realities in mind. Snow used a host of exotic blitz packages that led to six quarterback hits and seemed to rattle the ailing Winston. Linebackers, safeties, and corners were lining up all over the line of scrimmage then at the snap either blitzing or dropping back into coverage. It was an excellent effort by Snow and his troops.

The overall summary

It always feels good to win, and it feels even better when it comes against the Saints. Panthers fans needed this victory. While the playoffs are still a pipedream, we as fans need to see progress at some point during this meandering rebuild. I genuinely think an 0-3 start would have led to an all-out fan revolt. While one win doesn’t fundamentally change the trajectory of the franchise, it at least brings a reprieve from the lingering gloom.

The offense, however, remains a major concern. Baker Mayfield was erratic all day and completed just 12 of 25 passes. He could dink and dunk short passes but couldn’t push the ball down the field. His passing chart shows just two completions that traveled beyond six yards from the line of scrimmage. Nine of his 12 completions traveled three yards or less. Robbie Anderson and DJ Moore combined for just two receptions for 16 yards.

Rookie left tackle Ikem Ekwonu had another “learning lesson”. With 5:20 left in the game the Panthers were nursing a 22-7 lead and faced third-and-4 from their own 20. Christian McCaffrey ripped off what looked like a game-clinching 40-yard run to the New Orleans 40 yard line. But Ekwonu was flagged for a holding penalty that pushed the Panthers back to their own 10. It has been a rough start to the season for the No. 6 overall pick who currently has an abysmal PFF grade of 46.0.

Hallelujah and welcome to the party, Laviska Shenault! The Panthers traded for former second round pick on August 29th and he was inactive for Carolina’s first two games. In his debut he had two receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown. In addition to the 67-yard score he also had an important 23-yard catch-and-run to convert a big third-and-14 in the fourth quarter. The Panthers have needed a stronger No. 3 wide receiver than Shi Smith, and hopefully Shenault can fill that void. He was fast and explosive against the Saints. It was a promising debut.

On the defensive side, Frankie Luvu is playing at a Pro Bowl level. His strip of Alvin Kamara that led to the Panthers defensive touchdown was a game changer. He racked up five more tackles and continues to excel. Jeremy Chinn had a huge week with eight tackles, a big sack, a tackle for loss, and two passes defended. Chinn had been quiet to begin the season but made a huge impact in Week 3. Jaycee Horn continues to look like an elite defender, including the play when he tipped a pass on a blitz that led to a sweet fourth quarter interception by Derrick Brown. Horn’s PFF grade of 81.3 is outstanding.

The Panthers now face the Arizona Cardinals at home and Carolina is currently a one-point favorite. After a disappointing 0-2 start to the season, a 2-2 record through four games would feel great.