Here we are NFL week 2, in Carolina again. This will be the 3rd straight year the Saints have played the Panthers in Carolina early in the season, usually week 2 or 3. And if you’ve been keeping score, you should know that the Saints owe the Panthers a serious ass whipping.
The last 2 trips to Carolina haven’t been great. Really, they’ve been horrible. In both games, the Panthers’ D-line pummeled the Saints O-line into submission. Last year was so bad the Panthers not only battered Jameis Winston and his bad back, but they also knocked starting receivers Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry, and TreQuan Smith out of the game. Even Alvin Kamara gave up a fumble. And for the 2nd year in a row, the Saints failed to gain over 100 yards rushing.
Maybe this year will be different. To open the season, the Saints went through a slugfest against the Titans. It was a hard hitting, physical game. Previously the Saints often folded in these games. But they didn’t this time. They not only won, but they won by being the more physical team. They were more physical on defense especially, but also on offense when it mattered.
Optimistic About the Saints?
Up front on defense, Cameron Jordan looked as spry as ever. Carl Granderson led the team with 1.5 sacks. And rookie Bryan Breese continually collapsed the pocket from the middle and finished with a half a sack. All that pressure forced Titans QB Ryan Tannehill into 3 interceptions.
The Titans couldn’t do much running the ball either. Derrick Henry is one of the best running backs in the league. But he finished with only 63 yards on 15 carries and got stuffed by Demario Davis on a key short yardage possession.
Offensively, it wasn’t what some fans expected. The Saints had all sorts of problems running the ball. And Trevor Penning gave up constant pressure at left tackle. The Titans are renowned for their run defense. And you would’ve liked to see the Saints average more than just 2.3 yards a carry. But give them credit for sticking with it, Surprisingly, they ended up with 27 rushing attempts.
More importantly, with a chance to put the game away on 3rd and 4, the Saints lined up and did just that with a key 11-yard run. That showed physicality and a commitment to being a physical team that we haven’t seen in the past. Under Sean Payton, at 2.3 yards a carry, they would’ve most likely thrown the ball.
Optimistic About the Saints?
But all was not terrible on offense. When he had time, Derek Carr was impressive. And Chris Olave, Rashid Shaheed, and Michael Thomas also impressed. Thomas played more possession receiver, while Olave and Shaheed were explosive. Both had pass plays over 40 yards.
Fans should also keep in mind that 2 of the past 3 years, the Titans were either the number 1 or number 2 seed in the AFC. They might have been right up there again last year had Tannehill not gotten hurt. So, this wasn’t some rinky dink opponent.
But with that said, the Saints are going to have to run the ball a lot better against the Panthers. The Panthers, as the Saints now know, have a pretty good D-line. And the best way to keep them from pummeling Derek Carr is to establish a run game to keep them off balance. That’ll be hard without Kamara and rookie Kendre Miller. But hey, Taysum Hill anyone?
The Saints defense kept the team in both games in Carolina before eventually folding from exhaustion. Under Dennis Allen, the defense has typically gotten better as the season goes on. If they make even a slight improvement from last week’s domination, they just might carry the offense to victory. That’s the reason to be optimistic about the Saints.
We’ll see. If they do pull off a win, this will be the first time the Saints have gone 2-0 in 10 years. The last time was way back in 2013. How’s that for some Who Dat trivia?
6:15pm. Let’s go.