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Saints vs. Panthers: Five Big Things from the Game

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The Saints lost a 41-38 decision to the Carolina Panthers yesterday. What did I like from the game? What sucked? Why is Browner still playing? Here's what I think, let me know what you think.

Even the "Whistle Monsta" is unhappy about something
Even the "Whistle Monsta" is unhappy about something
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Who We Drafting?

1) Defense is Bad, but Offense is not Helping

When looking at the final score of yesterday's Saints-Panthers game, you'd think that the Saints offense just ripped Carolina's great defense for 38 points. Not so fast, my friend, not so fast. 9 of those points came from a scoop-and-score and a crazy extra-point return, both by middle linebacker Stephone Anthony.

So the Saints' offense still scored 29 points: not too shabby right? But here's what the Brees and Co. did as well: they were 3 for 10 (30%) on third down. Because New Orleans couldn't sustain drives, the Panthers had the ball 36:34 minutes, a full 13:08 minutes more than the Saints. And that's despite Carolina going only 3 for 8 (38%) on third down themselves. Look no one is going to confuse the Saints defense with a remotely competent NFL unit, but right now there isn't a single unit on the Saints that is truly standing out. That's why the Saints are 4-8 and looking better and better for a very high draft pick next year. Who needs tanking when you can lose despite trying hard to win?

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2) Stephone Anthony Gets My Game Ball

It's hard to feel great about any specific play or player in a losing effort. Yesterday, I came out of watching the Saints' game thinking: for once, the Saints have drafted well with this 2015 class. Among all those rookies, middle linebacker Stephone Anthony continues to impress. May I repeat this: he is a rookie, yet Anthony currently 9th in the NFL in total tackles with 92, 56 solo and 36 assisted tackles (which ranks 6th in the league). On Sunday afternoon, Anthony singlehandedly scored 10 of the Saints' 38 points including the first-ever two-point play on a blocked extra point return.

Where Anthony has somewhat lacked this season is in the pass rushing department (he has only one sack on the season) and in pass coverage with only 5 passes defended. However, with four games remaining, Anthony will undoubtedly reach and surpass the 100 tackles mark, which is remarkable for a rookie. The future is bright for the Saints at middle linebacker.

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3) Mark Ingram is Playing Some Good Football

If you have read me before, you know that I'm not the biggest Mark Ingram fan. And no, that has nothing to do with me being an LSU fan (or Ingram being an Alabama alum); it has to do with his pro career, which has mostly been vastly underwhelming. However, Ingram has been doing his part this season in New Orleans. Yesterday, the Saints as a team attempted a grand total of 14 rushes. Balance for the sake of balance is overrated, but if you only have 14 attempts as a team while throwing 42 times, you're not even trying.

Against the Panthers, Ingram rushed 12 times for 56 yards (4.7 yards per carry) and one touchdown. But on the season, Ingram is ranked 11th in the NFL with 769 yards and 12th in yards per carry (4.6). If Ingram averages 64 yards per game over the Saints' remaining four contests, he'll past the 1000-yard mark, which is a rare feat in a Sean Payton's offense.

Oh and on top of his rushing numbers, Ingram also has 50 receptions for 405 yards, meaning that he already sits at 1.174 all-purpose yards through only 12 games this season. Not too shabby.

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4) Of Benching Brandon Browner and Other Utopias

Look...I'm not in the business of calling for people to lose their jobs or get benched. Hey, that's almost exactly how I started this fourth big thing in last week's piece. Last time it was about Sean Payton, today it's about Brandon Browner. I get it: the Saints gave Browner a big contract this offseason and they probably feel like they can't just sit all these millions on the bench. What I don't understand is that I thought NFL teams were in the business of winning at all cost, and yet by keeping Browner as a starter, the Saints keep putting themselves behind the eight-ball defensively. If you're a Saints' fan, you know what scenario you dread most every Sunday this season: it's third and 8 for the Saints' opponent around midfield. The quarterback drops back, throws, Delvin Breaux or Kenny Vaccaro makes a play. Incomplete! The other team is going to punt, Saints ball! No, wait...there's a flag. You guessed it, it's on Number 39. Only, Sean Payton and Dennis Allen aren't watching the same games we are. According to Payton yesterday, Browner is "playing well." I get that Payton has to stick up for his players, but playing well??? Hold the site for me while I go stick my head in the sand.

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5) Drew Brees A Saints in 2016: Yes or No?

One interesting conversation that I had with many Who Dats on Twitter this weekend was about Brees being a potential trade asset for the Saints this upcoming offseason. I know that for some of us, the mere mention of the Saints trading Drew Brees triggers an immediate and acute allergic reaction to the conversation. Others are way too eager to see Brees gone already, which is just as misguided in my opinion. Brees is on pace to throw for about 4.600 yards, 31 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. There are teams in the NFL that would sell their mother and grandmother to get a quarterback of that caliber. Teams that are a quarterback away from being serious contenders: the Houston Texans, the New York Jets and even a team like the Saint Louis Rams come to mind.

On the other hand, you have the Saints, who despite Brees still above-average play, are 4-8 because the holes on this team are simply too multiple. Brees has a salary cap hit of 30 million dollars in 2016, which means that the Saints will likely restructure his contract and extend him, or trade him. An extension means pushing back more money for later years and it also means that the Saints will run the risk to still have Brees on their roster when he's completely washed up (it happens to all of us, Father Time always wins). A trade however, would be a bitter pill to swallow for the many faithful Who Dats who see Brees as a Saints for life. Remember though, so did Colts fans with Manning, 49ers fans with Montana, Packers fans with Favre, and the list goes on. What should the Saints do? This question is for you, the floor is yours!