The New Orleans Saints delivered quite the shocker last week in their 20-10 win against the Philadelphia Eagles in which the defense emphatically displayed their dominance. The pass rush was able to get to Gardner Minshew all day long collecting six sacks on the day, limiting the Eagles offense in the passing game. Besides the huge 78-yard score from Minshew to Brown, the secondary was able to keep everything in front of them and play up to the challenge that the Eagles receivers bring. The biggest moment of the game was made by the most important player on this Saints defense. In his long-awaited return, Marshon Lattimore clinched the game on a 12-yard pick six in his first game since week five. Seeing this was especially relieving for Saints fans even though it is a little too late for a playoff push. However, it does make you think about the end result if he is healthy for much of the year.
This week the Saints will be visited by the Carolina Panthers in their season finale. The Panthers will look much different on offense from the time these two teams matched up in week three. With the losses of Baker Mayfield, Christian McCaffrey and Robby Anderson, they will come out with an almost entirely new starting offense. Sam Darnold is now under center for this team, along with D’Onta Foreman and Chubb Hubbard to man the backfield. Out wide D.J. Moore is still the mainstay at receiver with the help from some younger guys trying to work their way into prominent roles.
How have these two units performed so far this season?
When it comes to the Panthers passing game, they currently sit at 28th in passing yards per game, 30th in passing touchdowns and 25th in passer rating. The Panthers offensively have been a trainwreck all season starting multiple quarterbacks throughout the year and ultimately finding no answer as to who’s competent. It also didn’t help trading their top players on the offensive side of the ball so early in the year either. But that’s what happens when your head coach gets fired the fifth week of the season. To be fair, Sam Darnold hasn’t been incapable of producing offense as he’s played some decent football the past few weeks. D.J. Moore of course, is a big reason for that, as he’s still producing in the best way he possibly can. He currently possesses 7 of the Panthers 16 touchdowns through the air. Other than Moore, the Panthers haven’t really been able to get much out of their group. Terrace Marshall Jr. is second on the team in receiving yards with 467 an average of only 36 yards per game. Other than that, there hasn’t been much of anything in Carolina.
On the other hand, the Saints' passing defense has been nothing short of outstanding. The team currently ranks 3rd in passing yards allowed, 3rd in passing touchdowns allowed and have given up the 12th lowest in passer rating in the league to opposing quarterbacks. It’s maybe hard to say but this consistency without Marshon Lattimore and much of their starting secondary for most of the season, is a true testament to the defensive scheme. To still post up a top secondary in the league without your best and most important player is truly phenomenal. The development from young guys Alontae Taylor and the progression of fitting into the scheme for Tyrann Mathieu have really allowed for this entire defense to stay at the top of the league. Nothing but applause for this unit as the year comes to an end.
What to expect in this game?
I expect the Saints secondary to end the season on a very high note. It will likely be the first time we see Alontae Taylor and Marshon Lattimore strap up side-to-side with an injury to Paulson Adebo that will likely keep him out for this one. Marcus Maye could also play in this one as well, which could very well give us an entire sneak peak of what the starting secondary will look like next season which is exciting. With all the turnaround for Panthers on offense as well as the limited resources that they have, I can envision the Saints totally dominating them through the air. It will be exciting to see if they can have a multitude of picks in this game, something that they haven’t been able to do all season. This would be one of the best games to do just that. We shall see on Sunday...