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#BaldyBreakdowns: Saints win thrilling chess match

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Brees versus Kuechly and Cam versus Cam turned out to be battles for the ages.

NEW ORLEANS, LA:  New Orleans Saints Pro Bowl cornerback Marshon Lattimore (23) reacts after a play against the Carolina Panthers offense during a Wild Card Round playoff game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
NEW ORLEANS, LA: New Orleans Saints Pro Bowl cornerback Marshon Lattimore (23) reacts after a play against the Carolina Panthers offense during a Wild Card Round playoff game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Victory Monday is a great thing. We all celebrate in our own ways (getting lunch at Popeye’s is my go-to), but I think every fan of the New Orleans Saints can appreciate some detailed insight from Brian Baldinger. “Baldy” played a couple of different spots along the offensive line for a couple of different teams over his 12-year NFL career, and now he’s producing some of the best - and certainly most-enthusiastic- commentary for fans on his Twitter account:

Baldy started his film study reviewing how things went badly for the Saints, particularly their running game. Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara combined for two of the best performances against a usually-strong Carolina Panthers run defense in the regular season, so head coach Ron Rivera and defensive coordinator Steve Wilks made a bold call to load up the tackle box and win the numbers game against the Saints blockers (make sure your speakers are on):

Baldy also gives some credit to Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, whose familiarity with the Saints informs his high football I.Q. to destroy worlds from the middle of the defense:

Of course, the counter-argument to the Panthers’ bold strategy is stopping the run forces Saints quarterback Drew Brees to beat you with his arm. It’s something teams have been cautious to attempt all year, given Brees’ Hall of Fame trajectory, and, well:

So daring Brees to air it out on the Superdome turf was regrettable. It helped that the Saints’ offensive line started to hit their stride as the day wore on and the Panthers’ defensive front began to run out of tricks:

So what’s the deal with Kamara? The presumptive NFL Rookie of the Year wasn’t productive Sunday, and it’s largely because the Panthers made stopping him their number-one priority. Still, Kamara’s influence as a decoy or pass protector wrecked Rivera’s best-laid plans:

And when it was Kamara’s turn to get the ball, he made the most of his touches:

Former Panthers wideout Ted Ginn Jr made his once-teammates pay, but the Saints’ best pass-catcher was actually Michael Thomas. The second-year pro went off in his postseason debut, recalling Larry Fitzgerald with the casual ease he showed by adjusting to passes in mid-air:

The Saints just had too many weapons for a defense even as good as Carolina’s (they allowed about 20-points per game in the regular season) to hold off. Eventually they slipped up:

That said, the Saints made enough mistakes of their own that they’ll get an earful in review sessions with their coaches this week. Wide reserve Brandon Coleman’s fumble issues are overblown among fans (he dropped the ball for just the third time in forty-nine games yesterday), but ball security is still a serious issue:

So that was fun. Here’s hoping we can experience another Victory Monday next week.