POSTED Mon. Dec 9, 2013
State of the Saints: A tale of two Cams

The Saints were not ambiguous about snapping the Panthers eight-game win streak last night. We did not dither or pussyfoot. We crushed them.

The game opened with two Panthers drives that started strong but stalled out due to solid Saints defensive play. Both resulted in field goals, which would be the last scores of the Panthers until a garbage time touchdown in the fourth quarter. Our defense was fired up all day and Rob Ryan threw a lot of weird formations at Cam Newton to get into his head. It quite visibly worked, as Cam never looked comfortable with the coverage or the blitz packages.

Truly, the better Cam was defensive end Cam Jordan, who was in Newton’s face all day and registered two tackles for loss, two sacks and two QB hits. Jordan is fast as hell for a 287 lb 3-4 DE and is having a career season. Junior Galette also looked amazing, and Rob Ryan is great at exploiting his versatility. He’s technically an outside linebacker, but often used as a 7 or 9 technique pass rusher; he also notched two sacks coming off of the edge. We held Cam Newton to 160 passing yards and 48 rushing yards. His only passing touchdown came with less than ten minutes remaining in a game that was already over.

The Saints offensive line played well against an aggressive defense that has been giving other teams nightmares for two months. We made the wondrous DE Greg Hardy look like a muggle. The line allowed only two sacks and generated a decent run push against the Panthers’ stingy defense.

How stingy is Carolina’s defense? This season, they have not allowed a team to score more than two touchdowns. Drew threw four. Colston, who had his best game of the year, caught two of them. Running on two surgically repaired knees (five surgeries total), he’s a lot slower than he used to be, but when he puts his mind to it, he’s still great at catching passes in traffic and fighting for jump balls. His new signature move is a Charles Barkley box out that works really well against smaller corners (albeit not so much against giant Seattle corners). The other two went to Jimmy Graham, who topped 1,000 receiving yards on the season and is averaging over one touchdown per game. He’s unstoppable in the red zone.

The offensive play calling was much improved last night. We used the pass to set up the run, not the other way around. The Saints are best when Brees is allowed to pepper the field with precision passes to short and intermediate routes to keep defenses reeling. We were aggressive, throwing on first downs and throwing deep on short downs when the defense is playing close to the line. We did not force the run. The run did not arise organically from the flow of the game script, so we didn’t stress it. The Saints have a problem accepting this at times.

It was a great game. I lost my voice contributing to the Super Dome clamor. The 10-3 Saints are now in the driver’s seat of the NFC South. The Saints close out the season at St. Louis (5-8), then Carolina, and wrap the regular season with the Bucs (4-9) in the dome. If we beat the two bad teams and lose to the Panthers, we still get a first round bye in the playoffs and get to play at least a game in the dome.

The Rams can play well at home but I think our offense will have its way with them. As for Carolina, they won’t be so easy to beat the second time. But the playoff outlook is quite good for the Saints. Except for the existence of the Seahawks. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come (back) to it.


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