Sam Bradford was a former 1st round pick. He’s talented, and despite what people think, his career has been derailed by injury issues, not performance issues. You saw that last year as he led the league in completion percentage. He’s accurate and makes pretty good decisions with the ball.
Tom Brady is a five-time Super Bowl winning QB. While he’s getting older, he can still take advantage of mistakes, as he is a great decision maker with the ball. One of the reasons the Pats have been so successful is because Brady doesn’t turn the ball over. They play a lot of mistake-free football and stay on the good side of the turnover margin.
Facing two QBs of that nature to start out your season with a secondary/back 7 (LBs included) that is young and doesn’t have much time on task together was a hell of a gauntlet for Dennis Allen’s defense. As I’ve noted before, every winning season in the Payton era consisted of an average to above average secondary/back 7 play. When we’ve been a losing team it consisted of bad secondary/back 7 play.
Why is this?
Well, when you are a passing team you have to be able to defend the pass, and as long as Payton and Breees are at the helm of this team, the Saints will be a pass first attack. So because the Saints pass the ball, teams have to pass to keep up with us thus defending the pass is conducive to our success.
Cam Newton is a playmaker that just happens to be a QB. He’s not going to throw 30-40 touchdown passes in a season. However, he’ll score 30-40 TDs once you factor in his ability on the ground, and that’s what made him elite. The guy was/is a playmaker. Where Brady or Bradford will check into the right play and make a pinpoint throw to convert a 3rd down, Newton will use his feet to make that same 3rd down conversion. However, that’s not really playing the QB position in a traditional sense. That’s being a threat.
Which brings me to my main point. With Newton getting older, having injured wheels, and his team attempting to prolong his career by trying to make him into a pocket QB, he’s likely on the decline. The majority of what he brings to the game relies on his ability to use his legs. Having that stripped from him in multiple ways makes him less of a threat than he typically is.
The organization is trying to protect him, so they brought in a Christian McCaffrey so that Newton can unload the ball quickly. However, last week we saw him miss a wide open McCaffrey for what could have been a TD. We must remember that the reason the Panthers drafted guys like Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess is because Newton has a propensity to miss high on throws. In fact, he’s downright inaccurate at times. This walks me right into my Keys For Success this week versus the Panthers.
Take Advantage of the mistakes Cam Newton makes
This defense is getting their first chance at facing a QB that they can take advantage of his gaffes versus him taking advantage of theirs. There will be overthrows and misfires in this game as well as times Newton holds onto the ball longer than necessary. The defense has to be ready to capitalize. The Saints defense can’t afford to drop INTs that hit them in the numbers. They can’t afford to run into each other trying to make an INT and then watch it slowly hit the turf. They can’t have penalties that take away turnovers, and they have to be able to recover a fumble if someone forces it. Exploit the fact that he’s rusty, hurt, and not the best traditional QB. The guys expected to make plays on this defense need to make them starting Sunday and it’s really that simple.
Bring Carolina’s Defense back down to Earth
#Panthers LB Luke Kuechly: "People ask me, "What happened to your defense?" Drew Brees happened to our defense. That's what happened."— Ed Werder (@EdwerderRFA) December 7, 2015
Right now the Panther’s defense is riding high. They’ve faced a murderous row of QBs in Tyrod Taylor and Brian Hoyer in successive weeks and shut them down /sarcasm. If there was ever a week that a defense could be facing a “trap” game, it would be this one. The Saints offense has struggled, Willie Snead is still suspended, and your defense hasn’t been playing great. Yet, just re-read the above tweet and realize the Panthers defense hasn’t faced a Drew Brees yet. They haven’t truly been challenged and thus before they begin to Pat Tillman themselves on the back, they need to pass this exam with flying colors. I would look to attack their secondary, more specifically the prehistoric safeties they have on the back end
Forrest Gump the Ball
For two weeks running (no pun intended), the offensive line is getting zero push in the run game. That has to change this week against the Panthers. I’m sure we thought the Saints could build on last year’s run game after having its first 1,000-yard rusher in Mark Ingram (who did it on less carries) since Deuce McAllister, and yet that hasn’t been the case. Since the Saints switched to more of an outside zone scheme, not having your two starting tackles in Terron Armstead and Zach Strief is no doubt hurting the run game, and yet I expect the team’s two first round picks in Andrus Peat and Ryan Ramczyk to step up and make some things happen this game.
The Panthers defense is predicated on stopping the run and then blitzing behind zone coverage (a change from previous years as they didn’t blitz much). Brees can pick apart the zones but we need to get in manageable situations so he doesn’t become the victim of a missed blitz pickup due to holding the ball and waiting for a route to develop.
Player to Watch vs. Panthers
Mark Ingram - RB
You have Mark who’s another guy I don’t think gets credit
That was Luke Kuechly on Ingram, and having Ingram in this spot was a given. Look, If it hasn’t been figured out already this offense does not need to be run through AP. He’s going to have to fan his oatmeal, be cool (sup Rock), and accept his role. The offense looks stagnant with so much swapping of the RBs and yet look the most consistent with Ingram in the backfield. Treat the guy with some respect and give him the ball. It’s time to stop trying to force AP into the game plan because he’s Adrian Peterson. Sometimes the biggest problems players have as they age is that they still think they are in their prime. Regardless, Ingram is the best all around back on the roster right now and I’ll be looking for Payton to feed him as he’s easily one of the few playmakers we still have left on offense.
Will getting this win be easy? Likely not, in fact based on the “look” of things we have no chance in this game. Yet, if you look at the data/opinions I’ve presented then this is definitely somewhat of a trap game for the Panthers. We’re 0-2 and nothing is stopping us from being 0-3 in the minds of every analyst at the moment. We’re the underdogs and that’s how we function best. Drop some comments below and enjoy the game on Sunday. Who Dat!