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Panthers vs. Saints: Behind the stats and game tidbits

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For the stat junkies, here’s a few nuggets from Sunday’s win over the Panthers.

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NFL: Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Here are some interesting stat lines and game tidbits from Sunday’s New Orleans Saints victory over the Carolina Panthers.

For starters, let’s look at the top graded players from Pro Football Focus.

Offense: Drew Brees (87.7), Michael Thomas (79.7), Brandin Cooks (79.6), Zach Strief (79.5), Senio Kelemete (78.9)

Defense: Cameron Jordan (89.5), B.W. Webb (86.5), Kenny Vaccaro (79.7), Vonn Bell (74.4), Darryl Tapp (73.9)

Here’s some of their in-depth statistics.

  • Season-high grade for QB Drew Brees (87.7), who finished with an 88.6% adjusted completion rate, which included going 5-for-8 on deep passes. Through six weeks, Brees has been the NFL's most accurate QB on deep passes, with a 66.7 percent adjusted completion rate.
  • Brees had a 158 passer rating when targeting either TE Coby Fleener or WR Michael Thomas, who combined to catch all 11 targets between them, including two touchdowns. This was the first week that Fleener caught every ball thrown his way.
  • 46 snaps for TE Josh Hill in his first action since Week 1, but he graded below-average, mostly due to his work as a blocker. Hill allowed a pressure and had a rough time blocking linebackers Shaq Thomson and Luke Kuechly in the run game.
  • Senio Kelemete played his first full game of the season with 73 snaps at left guard. He finished with a solid 78.8 overall grade, with above-average marks in both facets. Only two surrendered pressures in 53 pass blocking snaps.
  • QB Drew Brees continues to see pressure at a rate far below the league average. Carolina held him to an 82.8 passer rating and 2.5 YPA when they got to him, but that occurred on only 23.5% of his dropbacks. Through six weeks, no QB has been pressured less than Brees at 20% of his dropbacks.
  • Few players have had as good a two game stretch as Cameron Jordan's last two, which included a team-high 89.4 overall grade against Carolina. He compiled a batted pass and six pressures in 51 rushes, with multiple other wins that didn't count as pressure due to a quick release, while in the run game finished with three defensive stops.
  • Corner B.W. Webb (86.7 overall) saw a team-high 11 targets, but allowed only four catches for 41 yards and got his hands on three of the incompletions.
  • The Saints defense allowed only one of Carolina's eight deep (20+ yard) passes to be completed. Entering the game Cam Newton was accurate on 45 percent of his deep passes, the 12th-best mark in the NFL.
  • Rough game for LB Craig Robertson, who was one of two Saint defenders to play all 81 defensive snaps, but he had his worst performance of the season, grading below-average in all facets, in part due from two missed tackles. In coverage he allowed six of seven targets to be completed for a 100.6 passer rating.
  • Another solid game for safety Kenny Vaccaro (79.7 overall), who has yet to finish with a below-average grade this season. Although he allowed a completion on all three targets in coverage, Vaccaro was positive in both other facets on defense, including as a rusher where he three of his nine blitzes into pressure (1 hit, 2 hurries)

Panthers cornerback Zack Sanchez had a horrible game, which was good news for the Saints.

While Gunter was finding several creative ways to get beat, Sanchez was leaning on an old staple – the double move. This has been his kryptonite for as long as we have graded tape on him, and he was toasted by it again in Carolina’s loss to the Saints, biting on the first move regularly and surrendering 183 yards, including 87 on a single reception.

Why was the Josh Hill touchdown reception awarded? Here’s what Walt Anderson said:

“What the receiver did is he ended up getting two feet down inbounds. He had full control of the ball. He was brought to the ground. So he went to the ground out of bounds, but he maintained control of the football while out of bounds and then subsequent to his getting control and completing the catch process, then the defender ended up stripping the ball out. So he had actually completed the process of the catch, which is why it was reversed to a touchdown.”

Team tidbits

  • It was the 21st time the New Orleans Saints offense went over 500 yards since 2006, which is a league best.
  • Brees’ 465-yard passing game was third-highest in franchise history, and the quarterback owns the top six spots. It was his 16th career 400-yard passing game, which moved him into sole possession of the NFL record over Peyton Manning.
  • Brees extended his streak to 57 straight home games with a passing touchdown, which is a NFL record. He became the sixth quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 50,000 yards with one single team.

You can check out some of my thoughts on the team’s win on the late show with SB Nation Radio.