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What We Learned: Saints make successful bid for majority ownership of Panthers after 31-26 win

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Saints snuff the Panthers for 3rd straight time in a thrilling 31-26 victory over their divisional foe.

NFL: NFC Wild Card-Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Someone tell Diddy if he still wants to be part owner of the Panthers, the Saints are willing to make significant contributions to those efforts.

No really...

The Saints were victorious on a night that saw them lose the turnover battle (0 - 1), time of possession battle (33:49 - 26:11), 3rd down battle (47% - 25%), 4th Down battle (50% - 0%), have fewer 1st downs (24 - 21), and have fewer total yards (413 - 410) than the Panthers at the end of regulation.

And they STILL WON!

The main reason New Orleans was able to win was because they one-upped their division foes in the primary statistical category that mattered the most this game - Red Zone Efficiency - going 3-of-3 (100%) while holding the Panthers to 1-of-4 (25%)

Early on, New Orleans effectively used an 80-yard TD by Ted Ginn Jr. as cushion throughout the entire game. Because of it, they were able to withstand each of Carolina’s blows, never allowing the Panthers to come within needing less than a TD to take the lead.

“On the play call, it was to myself of Michael Thomas. On their defense, I saw the curtain come down and I knew I had a chance. I just had to get to my spot. I rushed to the end zone. I’m really the clear out guy there, but I ended up scoring.” - Ted Ginn

With Carolina obviously selling out to stop the run, the plan of attack shifted to the air as the Michael Thomas and Drew Brees connection lit up the Panthers on the way to “Can’t Guard Mike” nabbing 8 catches for 131 yards and a 16.4 avg.

In fact, I absolutely loved Sean Payton’s awareness in knowing the Panthers would have to approach the game this way. He clearly prepared the team for a high energy defensive unit that would come out aggressively looking to stop the run. Instead of trying to force it, he felt out the Panthers coverage early via those scripted plays and worked in Alvin Kamara/Mark Ingram sparingly to keep them honest.

This also led to myself and Rev’s question of who would step up to support the Big 3 being answered. That turned out to be Ginn, Brandon Coleman, and Josh Hill, as all three made significant plays throughout the game (none bigger than Ginn’s touchdown) that moved the chains to help the Saints seal the win.

Without a doubt, when the Saints have faced division foes this year, they’ve come to play and this game was no different, as the coaching of both Dennis Allen and Sean Payton stood out with their units making enough plays to send the Panthers back to Carolina licking their wounds.

Miscellaneous Notes

  • I mentioned Wil Lutz in my keys piece, and though he didn’t have to hit multiple field goals to seal the deal, the 57-yard kick he hit was clutch!
  • This is Vonn Bell’s second game he’s finished off with a sack this year. He fills that Roman Harper role well.
  • Craig Robertson continues to show excellent timing on the blitz. He does that at least once a game.
  • Speaking of, he and Manti Te’o continue to make enough negative/impact plays in the run game to balance out the yards given up in coverage.
  • The missed field goal by Graham Gano was huge in the grand scheme of things. Carolina would have been playing for three there to win it.
  • You can’t call Cameron Jordan underrated any longer.
  • David Onyemata met Jordan at the QB on more than one occasion. He and that entire interior D-Line (Tyeler Davison/Sheldon Rankins) played really well against the Panthers.
  • Saints lost Andrus Peat to a fractured fibula. Well wishes on his recovery.
  • Secondary gave up some plays, but that’s to be expected when 200 of those yards came versus their weaknesses at LB/Slot.
  • Panthers fans will complain about the intentional grounding call, but if “ownership” fixes the offensive line next year, Newton won’t be put in a position where he’s running for his life and having to make that throw. <Shrugs>
  • There was a pass to Brandon Coleman that the Play by Play announcer said was the worst throw Drew Brees made during that game. Blasphemy, Brees actually threw it where he knew only Coleman could catch it and unfortunately it slipped right through his hands. You don’t set the league record for accuracy in a season if you are sailing ball like that with regularity.
  • Here’s a nugget. With the consistent pressure the Saints get against Newton, it’s clear they were built to beat this team. They mush rush on the outside to keep Newton from getting the edges, and allow the DTs to wreak havoc inside. That’s why you bring in a Nick Fairley (though he’s no longer with us), Onyemata, and Rankins. De Facto way to muddy the pocket for Cam and unless they get their O-line in tact we’ll continue to big bro/lil’ bro them.
  • Shout out to “OutlawSaint” of Saints Report with the Petty Mayonnaise move of sending Newton and the Panthers a Broom/Dustpan in Carolina Blue. Smooth Criminal...hehe!

So much for the whole “Tough to beat a team three times” narrative the moving mandibles pushed the entire week. The Saints offense never appeared to stall like we’ve seen in other games and moved the chains against the Panthers consistently. They finished the season having the longest play allowed by the Panthers all season (80 yards to Ginn), along with also having the top two rushing performances against them. Saints are now on their way to Minnesota to face the Vikings in the Divisional Round screaming Who Dat, Two Dat say they gone beat dem Saints?! Enjoy your week like Sean was enjoying that win last night Folks!