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New Orleans Saints vs. Carolina Panthers: Behind the stats and game tidbits

Some things you might not have seen in Thursday’s loss to the Panthers.

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NFL: New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

We’re quickly approaching the 48-hour mark since the New Orleans Saints took a crushing loss to the Carolina Panthers on Thursday Night Football. Fans have made it abundantly clear with their displeasure for the mediocrity that continues to circle the franchise, and even though the team has six games left on the schedule, it’s hard to find much optimism right.

Let’s a take a look at some stats you might not have Here’s your Pro Football Focus grades.

Offense: Zach Strief (79.9), Jahri Evans (74.6), Max Unger (73.9), Tim Hightower (68.6), Brandin Cooks (68.3)

Defense: Cameron Jordan (87.9), Ken Crawley (84.7), Nathan Stupar (82.6), Nick Fairley (79.9), Jairus Byrd (77.6)

The Good Stuff (from Pro Football Focus)

  • Season-low grade for LG Senio Kelemete. He had a particularly rough time blocking DT Kawann Short, who had his second-best game of the season. Kelemete allowed three pressures (two against Short) and was beaten on multiple other snaps that didn't count as pressure due to a quick release from Brees. He also graded negatively on both runs and screens
  • Max Unger also had his worst game of the year, likewise struggling against Kawann Short in the run game. In pass protection, he allowed only his second pressure on the year in 50 pass blocking snaps. Through 10 games Ungar is tied for the fewest pressures allowed at the position and is still the No.1 graded center in the passing game.
  • Drew Brees was a perfect 6-for-6 passing at intermediate distance (10-19 yards), but mostly stuck to the short game; his 40 aimed attempts travelled only 4.6 yards downfield on average, while he saw pressure at his season-average rate. Brees still has the lowest pressure rate among 34 qualifying QBs (22.3 percent) heading into Sunday's games.
  • Much of the Saints offensive game plan centered around RB Tim Hightower. His 43 snaps were his second-most this season and he saw a team high 12 carries, 8 targets, and 8 catches. In the passing game he gained more yards after the catch (76) than net yards (57), which underscores how often the Saints threw short or behind the line of scrimmage - the Saints threw eight screen passes on Thursday, their highest total this season and well above their season average (3.5 per game).
  • Rough game for the Saints tight ends. Josh Hill saw 43 snaps, while Fleener played 41 and both graded below-average overall. Fleener caught three of five targets, but fumbled one of them and was called for a false start, while Hill dropped his only target and finished slightly negative in the run game. John Phillips had the best game of the group in 16 snaps for his work as a run blocker, although he also surrendered a pair of pressures.
  • Cam Jordan continued his mid-season tear, finishing the game as the Saints' highest-graded player once again, although he didn't quite match his Week 10 performance following a short week. He converted 33 rushes into six pressures and a batted pass, while in run defense he gave tight ends Greg Olsen and Ed Dickson a tough time. Jordan now has the highest overall grade among edge defenders (90.8) heading into Sunday's games.
  • With Dannell Ellerbe healthy, LB Nathan Supar once again saw a decrease in playing time. He logged just 17 snaps on defense in Carolina, his lowest total since Week 3, but still had his best performance of the season in that span. Stupar compiled three run stops to go with one three yard catch allowed in coverage, while his only blitz resulted in a sack.
  • Ellerbe followed an above-average day against Denver with another solid performance against the Panthers. His 10 blitzes resulted in three pressures (1 sack, 1 hit, 1 hurry), which puts him up to six pressures in the last two games. He also has yet to allow a catch in coverage (two targets) or miss a tackle in that time. The Saints defense collectively missed only two tackles in Carolina.
  • The Saints defense had another solid week rushing the passer, getting to Cam Newton on nearly 50 percent of his dropbacks (48.6%). Ober the last three weeks the Saints have averaged pressure on roughly 42% of opponents dropbacks, a top-six rate in that span, and are now at the league-average rate (33 percent) for the season.
  • Ken Crawley is another player who's seen the field only sparingly in recent weeks, but had one of his two best games of the year (84.7 overall). He logged just 9 coverage snaps against Panthers (10 total), getting targeted twice and breaking up both passes, one each against receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess.

Team Tidbits

  • The New Orleans defense limited Panthers QB Cam Newton to eight passing yards in the first quarter, his lowest in an opening quarter since he threw for seven yards on Sept. 20, 2015 vs. Houston.
  • On a nine-yard scoring connection with WR Brandon Coleman, Brees posted his 25th touchdown pass of 2016. He has now recorded at least 25 touchdowns for the 11th-straight season, all with New Orleans. Overall, it was his 12th season with at least 25 touchdown tosses, taking over second place all-time in the category, surpassing Tom Brady and Brett Favre.
  • On his second pass attempt of the night, a 12-yard completion to Brandin Cooks, Brees surpassed 3,000 passing yards on the season, recording his 13th-consecutive season with at least 3,000 passing yards and tying Peyton Manning for the second-longest streak in NFL history. It also marks his 14th-career season of at least 3,000 passing yards, breaking a tie for sole possession of third place in NFL record books, moving past Tom Brady and Dan Marino. He now trails just Brett Favre (18) and Peyton Manning (16).
  • Cooks made seven receptions for 42 yards and now has 51 grabs on the season, becoming the first Saint to post at least 50 catches in each of his first three seasons in Black and Gold since RB Darren Sproles (2011-13). He also joined WR Danny Abramowicz and RB Reggie Bush as only the third Saint to record at least 50 grabs in each of his first three NFL seasons.
  • On a 14-yard rush in the first quarter, RB Mark Ingram reached 3,758 rushing yards over his career, surpassing Pierre Thomas (2007-14) for fourth place on the franchise’s all-time rushing list. He finished with 28 yards on seven rushing attempts and 47 yards on three receptions.
  • Tim Hightower rushed it 12 times for 69 yards, including a season-long 27-yard carry in the fourth quarter. He added a season-high 57 yards on a season-best eight receptions. His yardage total and reception total were the most he’s posted since he made eight receptions for 57 yards on Nov. 1, 2009 vs. Carolina.
  • Dannell Ellerbe made the start and recorded a sack of Newton in the second quarter, his second of the season. With his first sack as a Saint coming last week against Denver, Ellerbe has now posted sacks in back-to-back games for the second time in his career (other, Sept. 16, 2012 at Philadelphia – Sept. 23, 2012 vs. New England). He now has 8.5 sacks over his career. In all, he posted four tackles (two solo) along with the sack.