Re-Focused: Week 4, Panthers at Saints

| October 4, 2010

In 2009, the Saints battered the opposition into surrender with their high-octane offense. Now that their offense isn’t putting up the same amount of points, we’re getting to take a good long look at a defense that has some flaws. How else can you explain allowing two touchdowns to a rather impotent Carolina offense?

Except for Usama Young making a play on the penultimate snap of the game, this result could have been very different. The Saints (as they so often have over the past two years) squeaked out a win, but the need for improvement is huge. For Carolina, there were some encouraging signs that they won’t be winless for long, so let’s take a look at some of those.

Carolina: Three performances of note

While the commentary team overplayed his role (his two fumble recoveries had something to do with that), it was still a good game for OLB James Anderson (+2.9). In addition to the aforementioned fumble recoveries, he picked up a sack, a quarterback pressure and 11 tackles. It’s just a shame only three of those tackles constituted defensive stops. That was one more than two-down linebacker Dan Connor (+3.8), who is having a great year. Every time we see him play, his disciplined aggressiveness shines through.

The rookie lumps keep coming for Jimmy Clausen (+0.1). His awareness of the play clock indicates he’s not quite up to the speed of how the NFL works, and his accuracy was questionable at best. His line did a great job giving him time (or the Saints’ pass rush did a poor job, depending on perspective), but he followed this up by completing 9 of 17 passes when not faced with pressure and getting overly happy feet on a further two dropbacks. Perhaps the best thing is he didn’t throw a pick and he’s not making the mistakes Matt Moore did, but he’s a long way from looking NFL-ready.

On the offensive line, one performance really stood out. He hasn’t looked great in filling in for Jeff Otah, but RT Geoff Schwartz (+4.2) had a strong game, primarily against Alex Brown. He didn’t surrender a single pressure and was very active in opening up lanes in the running game. Can it continue against better opposition?

New Orleans: Three performances of note

You take away the impact DLT Sedrick Ellis (+2.7) had, and the Saints’ pass rush consisted of just six combined sacks, hits and quarterback pressures. This is a developing theme now as the Saints struggle to find any pressure with the starting defensive ends — they combined for a hit and a pressure between them. A better quarterback really could have exposed this, and we like the matchups for any opposing quarterback against the Saints right now.

In better news, HB Ladell Betts (+2.0) may not have the same burst he once did, but he stepped up and made a number of good plays. His 3.6-yard average was so-so, but consider that 40 out of 47 yards came after contact and you’ll get an idea of how he made things happen.

Facing pressure on 12 out of 50 dropbacks, you would expect Drew Brees (+2.7) to have a big day. But his 275 yards are misleading and his 5.7 yards per attempt far more revealing. The Panthers kept their safeties deep for most of the game and Brees seemed reluctant to go downfield, with only nine of 48 attempts being thrown farther than 9 yards. It wasn’t a bad performance, but given what we’ve come to expect, it was still disappointing.

Rookie report

Outside of a very impressive catch by David Gettis (+0.8), it was a quiet day for the Panthers’ rookie receivers. Gettis and Brandon LaFell were thrown at seven times and came down with three balls. … Greg Hardy (-2.0) was, for the first time, a disappointment. He made one nice play in run defense but was ineffective getting to the quarterback. … When FS Sherrod Martin went down, Jordan Pugh (+2.8) came into the lineup and was extremely impressive. He got a hit on the quarterback, made one really nice defensive stop and the only time he was thrown at, he broke up a pass. We’re looking forward to seeing more of him.

For the Saints, Chris Ivory looked OK rushing (+0.3), but he can’t keep putting the ball on the ground. … Jimmy Graham saw more time (eight snaps) this week as the Saints try to figure out how to get the most out of him (is an end-around from the tight end slot really the way?).

Random notes

Contrary to what you may be told, this game marked the third consecutive game that Gettis has started as the Panthers’ No. 2 receiver. … Stay away from a healthy Tracy Porter. Four times Carolina threw at him, and he allowed no receptions with two pass breakups.

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