The Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints have had some close games in recent years. This game was not one of of those as Carolina won, 26-7. The Panthers were in control for most of the game, and they shut down a Saints team coming off a dominating performance of their own.
Sam Darnold vs. Jameis Winston
Two quarterbacks on two new teams. These two had days on the opposite ends of the spectrum on Sunday. After a solid performance against the New York Jets in Week 1, Darnold followed up with a better one. Darnold threw for 305 yards, the first time he did that since Week 11 of 2019. He also added two touchdowns, one on the opening drive to Brandon Zylstra. And another two yard score to DJ Moore. One bad interception not withstanding, Darnold is off to the best start of his career thus far. However, it was not all positive for Darnold. He struggled a bit in the second half, including throwing this ugly interception to defensive tackle Malcolm Roach.
Jameis Winston had himself a rougher day. After a 5 TD showing against the Packers last week, Winston got shut down by Carolina’s defense, and then some. Winston only managed to complete half of his 22 passes for 111 yards, with no TDs and 2 picks. This is now Winston’s 26th career game with multiple interceptions. Now to give credit to the Panthers defense, they were getting pressure on him. They collected four sacks and the same amount of pressures, leading to those picks.
Short Handed Saints
Going into this game, the Saints were missing a LOT of their personnel. Marshon Lattimore and C.J. Gardner-Johnson were ruled inactive for this game with injuries. As was starting center Erik McCoy, and D-Linemen Marcus Davenport and Tanoh Kpassagnon. On top of that, the NFL’s COVID protocol shelved eight of the Saints’ coaches as well. New Orleans was not close to full strength, and it showed.
First, this team looked lifeless on the field as the game went on. The corner depth was shallow with Lattimore, arguably their best defensive player, and Gardner-Johnson, a physical, aggressive athlete. Because of that, the defense lacked the attitude that has become a signature in New Orleans.
Secondly, the offense had been short on talent coming into the season. With Michael Thomas still on IR, and Tre’Quan Smith being placed there earlier this month, the receivers are looking scarce. The leading receiver for this game was Lil’Jordan Humphrey (1 catch, 27 yards), who has appeared in 10 games over three seasons. And with the Saints down so many pieces, the Panthers were able to take advantage.
Panthers Pouncing on Defense
Carolina has some young talent on their defense, and some of them made their presence known on Sunday. Third year edge rusher Brian Burns got a sack on Winston. Rookie Jaycee Horn got his first career pick on his dad’s (former WR Joe Horn) former team. And newcomer Haason Reddick had 1,5 sacks on the day. In addition, they completed a tall order in shutting down Alvin Kamara. Kamara was a non-factor on Sunday, giving him 8 carries for a VERY measly 5 yards. They also held him to 27 yards on four catches and no scores,
Two games in, the Panthers’ D ranks first in the leagues in multiple stats. Points allowed, yards allowed, passing yards allowed, and rushing yards allowed. Also in rushing yards per attempt, where they are allowing less than three yards a game. However, it can be noted that their two opponents have been a little soft. The Jets in Week 1 with Zach Wilson making his debut, and now the Saints without a lot of their best talent and most of their staff. But with the young talent, adding in safety Jeremy Chinn and DT Derrick Brown for example, the growth of this defense is something to keep an eye on.
The Saints will look to rebound in Foxboro on Sunday against New England. The Panthers are on a short week, as they will host the Houston Texans on Thursday Night Football.