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Saints vs. Panthers: Five Big Things from the Game

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The New Orleans Saints (2-3) found a way yesterday, when they defeated the Carolina Panthers (1-5) 41-38 in yet another shootout in the Superdome. Season turnaround? We hope so. Here are five remarkable things that I picked from the game.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

1) Drew Brees Continues to Amaze

If the NFL was like college football, then Drew Brees would deserve to have a statue of himself built in New Orleans when he finally retires and rides off into the sunset. We are conditioned to marvel at new toys and shrug off things that have become commonplace. Sunday in the Superdome against the Carolina Panthers, Brees completed 34 passes for 465 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. On the season, he has a 103.1 passer rating, 14 touchdowns vs. four interceptions. Even more remarkable, Brees entered an exclusive club on Sunday, when he went over 50,000 yards passing with one team, joining only Brett Favre, Dan Marino, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and John Elway. In other words, Brees is on pace for another stellar year, while having to carry one of the weakest defenses in the entire league. So let's not become so blase that we can't appreciate Brees' greatness, because the Saints would likely be 0-5 right now, were he not under center for them.

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2) Second Half Collapses

The Saints' defense isn't very good, we all know that. But what has been mesmerizing is how they've actually played pretty well in the first half of games, only to fall apart in the second half. Take a look at these stats:

Week one vs. Raiders: Half one: 10 points; Half two: 25 points

Week two at Giants: Half one: 3 points; Half two: 10 points

Week three vs. Falcons: Half one: 28 points; Half two: 17 points

Week four at Chargers: Half one: 14 points; Half two: 24 points

Week six vs. Panthers: Half one: 10 points; Half two: 28 points

The Falcons' game in week three is the only time this season that the Saints gave up more points in the first half than in the second, so the blueprint is out there for New Orleans' opponents: no matter how far down you are, you can come back on the Saints in the second half of games. Is it an issue of lack of personnel or bad halftime adjustments? Probably a little bit of both, so there's a high chance that we'll all be on the edge of our seats for all 16 Saints games this season.

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3) Coby Fleener Becoming a Weapon

The tight end that Saints fans love to hate is slowly but surely winning some hearts in the Big Easy. After his big game against the Falcons (7 catches for 109 yards and a touchdown) Fleener caught six passes (on seven targets) for 74 yards and one touchdown against the Panthers. He also added a rushing touchdown to open the score for the Saints. As maligned as Fleener has been at times this year, he's now on pace for 61 receptions for 758 yards and six touchdowns for the season. For a tight end in a Saints' offense that spreads the ball around, that's more than respectable.

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4) Lack-Lutzer

Sure, Saints kicker Wil Lutz made that low line drive 52-yard field goal to get the lead for the Saints, but Lutz has been anything but the kicking prodigy that he was touted to be. After the Carolina game, Lutz is now 7 of 11 on the season (64%) with a long of 57 against the Falcons. 64% is absolutely terrible, given that in the NFL, some kickers lose their jobs because of success rates under 85%. On the bright side, Lutz has made all 18 of this PAT tries and has had at least three touchbacks in every game so far this season. But I need to see more, especially when it comes to the long field goals he's supposed to be so good at.

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5) Tamed Kitties

What a difference a year makes. Last season, the Panthers were a perfect 6-0 after six games, en route to a 15-1 regular season record. This year, Carolina is 1-5 at the same junction and on its way to an early vacation when this regular season ends. Also eerie is the fact that in their meeting against the Panthers in the Superdome in 2015, the Saints fell short by the exact same score of 41-38 that saw them prevail yesterday. This is one more reminder that nothing is promised in the NFL, it's the quintessential year-to-year league. 11 more games to go in this campaign, buckle up and enjoy the ride!