ReFo: Saints @ Panthers, Week 9
With the NFC South wide open, the New Orleans Saints put down a claim for it with a hard-fought win over the Carolina Panthers.
This game swung the way of the Saints on a turnover that saw the careless ball security of Cam Newton punished, with the excellent Junior Galette forcing the fumble. An additional score before the half saw the Panthers fall 14 points behind, minutes after they were tied and with possession of the ball. Momentum gone, they stole some back with a Newton scramble for six, but a Drew Brees sneak created the kind of distance this Carolina offense looked ill equipped to overcome.
Let’s take a look at some of the key performances.
New Orleans Saints – Performances of Note
Junior Galette, DE: +7.2
Breakdown: Galette notched his fourth positive pass rushing grade of the season as he feasted on an overmatched rookie left tackle. He ended the day with two sacks, a hit and five hurries in his best pass rushing display of the season.
Signature Play: His forced fumble may have been important, but the speed at which he beat David Foucault with 4.59 to go in the game was more impressive.
Jimmy Graham, TE: +2.5
Breakdown: Good to go and hard to stop. Graham didn’t have a ton of targets but made them count, walking away with a touchdown and 83 receiving yards on his 33 routes run.
Signature Play: He’s too big and too fast. With 12.13 to go in Q4 Drew Brees throws a beautiful back shoulder throw that Graham makes the necessary adjustment to, kick-starting a drive that would kill the game.
Keenan Lewis, CB: +2.2
Breakdown: If this game is anything to go by expect to see a lot of contested balls between Lewis and Kelvin Benjamin going forward. While the stats somewhat flatter Lewis (he benefit from a drop and overthrow that could have resulted in touchdowns) there’s no denying he took away the Panthers end zone fade get out of jail free card.
Signature Stat: All bar one throw into his coverage was aimed at Kelvin Benjamin as he followed him around the field. Lewis is one of the few guys in the league capable of doing this.
Carolina Panthers – Performances of Note
Luke Kuechly, LB: +3.8
Breakdown: As the Saints were held scoreless Kuechly was making his presence felt. Then with the Saints up in front they opted to run away from areas the middle linebacker could make a significant influence on the game, resulting in a very quiet second half.
Signature Stat: With Kuechly knifing through A gaps the Saints had just two runs either side of center in the second half, with nine, by contrast, going outside the tight end.
David Focault, LT: -6.2
Breakdown: The undrafted free agent out of Montreal might be one to watch for the future, but now he’s one to watch getting beat. He had a hard time dealing with the power of the Saints’ edge rushers on his way to allowing two sacks, a hit and five hurries. The loss of Jordan Gross continues to be felt.
Signature Stat: This performance came even with some help. Ryan Kalil was protecting to his left 68.8% of time as the team slid protection to the quarterback’s blindside.
Cam Newton, QB: -0.8
Breakdown: Far from perfect, but far from horrendous. Newton let himself down as others failed to match his good start to the game. In between spotty protection (14 of 36 dropbacks) and four dropped passes (including one that would become a pick) the Panthers quarterback needs to take his share of blame for some off-target throwing as the game wore on.
Signature Play: With 13.06 to go in the game Kelvin Benjamin has enough separation for Newton to hit him in stride for six. Instead he throws high and the Panthers settle for a field goal.
He caused havoc, so while Brees and Graham might feel slighted, Junior Galette has earned this one.
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