CAR-NO grades: Drew Brees carves up Panthers secondary in shootout win

Brees, his WRs and DE Cameron Jordan help fuel close win over Cam Newton and the Panthers.

| 8 months ago
(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

CAR-NO grades: Drew Brees carves up Panthers secondary in shootout win

New Orleans Saints 41, Carolina Panthers 38

Here are the top-graded players and biggest storylines from the Saints’ nail-biting 41-38 win over the Panthers.

New Orleans Saints

Quarterback grade: Drew Brees, 87.7

Drew Brees was his typical elite self, as he exploited matchup issues throughout the game that were created by Carolina’s lack of depth due to injuries. His stat lines of 35 completions to 50 attempts sound excellent enough, but when considering that four of his incompletions were drops and another six were throwaways, spikes or passes when he was hit as he threw, his game becomes even more impressive. Essentially he completed 39 of 44 aimed throws, and even his interception looked to be an instance of WR Brandin Cooks making too shallow of a cut on his post pattern.


Top offensive grades:

QB Drew Brees, 87.7

WR Michael Thomas, 79.7

WR Brandin Cooks, 79.6

RT Zach Strief, 79.5

OG Senio Kelemete, 78.9

Saints receivers dismantle short-handed Carolina secondary

The Saints were without as many as three of their top cornerbacks at various parts of the game, which resulted in linebackers like Shaq Thompson being stuck on an island with Saints playmakers. With Brees on such a roll, it’s difficult to spotlight just one or two standouts in the receiving corps, but Cooks and Michael Thomas stood out the most. Cooks caught 8 of his 10 targets for 175 yards and an 87-yard score, while Brees had a perfect 158.3 QB rating when throwing to Thomas (he caught all five targets for 78 yards and a touchdown). The offensive line gave up 10 hurries but just one sack and two hits, and as a result Brees was able to stay clean throughout the day and negotiate the pocket to successfully buy time.

Top defensive grades:

DE Cameron Jordan, 89.5

CB B.W. Webb, 86.5

S Kenny Vaccaro, 79.7

S Vonn Bell, 74.4

OLB Darryl Tapp, 73.9

It was a dominant all-around day by Cameron Jordan

Whether it were a run or pass play, the Panthers struggled to effectively block Saints DE Cameron Jordan. When rushing the passer, he notched two hits, four hurries and batted down a pass, and all four of his tackles in the run game went for stops. Elsewhere, safety Kenny Vaccaro had a strong day, as he posted three pressures of his own to go with seven total tackles. He was charged with three receptions allowed (and a penalty), but he limited his man to just 31 yards total on those catches.

Carolina Panthers

Quarterback grade: Cam Newton, 80.7

While his deep ball was off today (he completed just one of seven shots at least 20 yards downfield), Cam Newton was able to carve up the Saints’ secondary on intermediate throws. He completed 12 of 18 throws that traveled between 10 and 19 yards through the air, for 172 of his 327 passing yards. His touchdown run in the waning minutes of the game was his only run on the day, which could be a sign of the Panthers wanting him to avoid taking unnecessary hits after his concussion two weeks ago.

Top offensive grades:

TE Greg Olsen, 85.5

QB Cam Newton, 80.7

LG Andrew Norwell, 79.2

C Ryan Kalil, 78.0

WR Ted Ginn, 77.5

Olsen continues to produce

WR Kelvin Benjamin had one of those frustrating games he’s prone to having, as he dropped two passes and mistimed his jump on another ball that fell incomplete. TE Greg Olsen caught six of his seven targets against five different defenders, the shortest of the collection still going for 11 yards. While tackles Mike Remmers and Daryl Williams combined to give up a sack and seven total pressures, the three interior lineman each posted clean sheets in pass protection.

Top defensive grades:

LB Shaq Thompson, 87.5

LB Luke Kuechly, 86.2

LB Thomas Davis, 77.5

DE Mario Addison, 73.8

S Kurt Coleman, 72.6

Brees gives Saints rookie cornerback a rude welcome to the NFL

Forced to play 51 snaps due to injuries in the secondary (most notably CB Daryl Worley), rookie Zack Sanchez was a repeated victim of Brees’ brilliance. He gave up seven catches on nine targets, including Cooks’ 87-yard touchdown and TE Josh Hill’s 8-yard touchdown. Brees had a perfect QB rating when targeting Sanchez. As usual, linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis always seemed to be involved in the action, as the duo combined for 13 solo tackles, four stops and two pressures.

PFF Game-Ball Winner: Saints QB Drew Brees

PFF’s player grading process includes multiple reviews, which may change the grade initially published in order to increase its accuracy. Learn more about how we grade and access grades for every player through each week of the NFL season by subscribing to Player Grades.

| Analyst

Josh joined PFF as an analyst in 2015. During the season, his primary focus is college football (mainly the Big Ten). He is also heavily involved in PFF's NFL draft coverage. Prior to joining the team, he worked for six years with GM Jr. Scouting, an independent draft scouting service.

  • Issac Byrd

    Once again the Pantgers prove themselves to be the biggest joke in the NFL. Josh Norman and Bene Benwikere were their only good corners last year and they’re both gone…because their GM cut them. Their reason for cutting Bene was disgraceful too. Conditioning? He was coming off a broken leg near the end of last season, of course he isn’t going to be in tip top shape. Now they’re counting on a bunch of rookies and look what happened. Gettleman is so arrogant with handling his players and he has zero respect for anyone.

    Cam Newton needs to demand a trade from this pathetic franchise. Hope he can get out while he still can.

    • JudoPrince

      Pathetic Franchise? How is this franchise pathetic after winning 3 straight division titles and going to a Super Bowl, did you just start watching football? The Panthers will suffer this year but have a track record of developing young talent and will compete in the future with much better cap positioning.

      • steelersfan4life

        Aw that’s nice went to the Super Bowl only to get smacked while the steelers have 6 superbowls lol. Panthers franchise is shit compared to pats, steelers, niners, dolphins, rams and Colts

    • JT

      Til you know the rookie CBs take their lumps and get better and they become a lot better team for the future since they aren’t paying Norman a ridiculous amount of cap space….Ealy and Johnson are an even bigger problem than the secondary….no pass rush and any secondary is gonna get lit up all day especially a bunch of rookies in their first few games in the NFL. When Bradberry was playing they weren’t all that bad.

      • David

        Here’s a man who knows logic. The pass rush has been crap. Johnson is done. He’s got nothing left. Ealy seems like he is a guy who can play second fiddle to a dominant pass rusher and produce, but can’t step up to the plate and be one himself. Star has never been a pass rushing specialist, so no difference. Thus every team has been doubling or even tripling (what the players have said in interviews) KK.
        And yeah Bradberry was looking fantastic and like a home run pick until his injury cropped up. PFF were talking him up till the injury. I honestly believe we don’t lose the last two games and possibly not even the falcon’s game if he is able to stay healthy. He went out early in the first quarter and it was after that when Julio blew up!