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What We Learned: Young Saints secondary steps up to force three turnovers in thrashing of Panthers

P.J. Williams, Kenny Vaccaro, and Marcus Williams all had INTs as the Saints defense tormented Cam Newton in his worst game of the season.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The entire secondary proceeded to feast on an ailing Panthers offense. Yes, it’s worth noting they were down Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen (Saints also down Lattimore and Breaux), but the defense showed no mercy on the Panthers QB and WR corps as they proved to be a constant nuisance to Cam Newton and company. With stellar individual INTs by Marcus Williams, Kenny Vaccaro, and P.J. Williams, the play of the young defensive backs proved to be pivotal in the outcome of the game. Lets take a look at a few things we learned about the Saints in Week 3.

No Fly Zone

The defense is starting to play more like a unit and it showed during the win over the Panthers. Now granted, you expect this type of focus in a division game, but it was still nice to see them win individual matchups. Sure, Christian McCaffrey is going to be a thorn in the Saints’ side for years, but because his play is dependent on the QB getting him the ball and the creativity of the O-coordinator calling the plays, he should rarely be the guy that beats us.

One of the most encouraging things is that two of the INTs were jumped routes, suggesting good recognition and gasp...coaching. It was also nice to watch them withstand Cam Newton’s fiercest battle cry’s and patented surges as they matched him blow for blow and held him to a season low 43.8 QBR after two previous games in the 84.0 range. With that being said, all it takes is one outing like this to build confidence for a much maligned defensive group and suddenly a light bulb can flip on.

Low Mileage on the Kamara

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

Alvin Kamara is a playmaker as the exciting runs he made in college are definitely translating in the NFL. You can see a balanced runner that does not go down due to good pad level on contact. He’s also got that 39.5” vert that speaks to the lower body burst and explosion you see when he runs. Ask the one Panthers DB about it on the TD run. That was all balance and lower body strength to slip through tackles and as he continues to establish himself as a passing threat it’ll make him even more dangerous. He’s still attempting to get on the same page with Drew Brees, as evidence by a missed opportunity where he misread Cover 2, but when he does it will give Sean Payton the ability to open up the playbook more.

Sean Timberlake and Drew Chasez are still NSYNC

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

As the Saints played mistake free football on offense for a 3rd straight week, there was a certain rhythm between playcaller and QB as the offense hummed against the Panthers. The primary ball carriers were air-tight with the ball in tote as they ran amok on a Panthers defense that every writer prior to the game suggested was a top tier unit. Brees then put them to the test through the air as he hit on throws to every area of the field (short, intermediate, and deep) and took advantage of the Panthers whenever they deployed zone coverage. There were even plays that were left on the field, as he missed on a shot play to Ginn that would have surely been a TD as well as the aforementioned miscommunication with Kamara. Brees was saved from a blemish on the night when Luke Kuechly dropped a sure INT, but the play-calling (Payton) and execution (Brees) were on point for the majority of game.

Random Thought I: AP brought the Hammer. As long as he can continue to play the role of Thor in the Saints backfield, the usually finesse offense that Payton runs now has some bite. The Saints ran the ball to the tune of 123 yards and a TD.

Random Thought II: Ken Crawley is the Craig Robertson of the secondary. He’s backing up a better player in Marshon Lattimore, but it’s nice to know he can fill in confidently if the latter has to miss time.

Random Thought III: Marcus Williams had an eerily similar INT his Junior Season at Utah. Yep, a one-handed INT off a tipped ball. Same area of the field and everything. Watch both below!

If the Saints continue to get assists from the defense, play mistake free football, and keep getting healthy, expect this team to get on a roll late in the season. Keep in mind that a lot of these guys are 1st and 2nd year players held together by Jordan, Klein, and Vaccaro on defense. You can only imagine how much better they will get as guys like Lattimore, P.J. Williams, Marcus Williams, Alex Anzalone, Sheldon Rankins, and Vonn Bell continue to develop. Drop some comments below and see you in London next week. Who Dat!