Saints made Carolina D look average

December, 9, 2013
12/09/13
2:45
AM ET
NEW ORLEANS -- Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly perhaps put it best.

"They got us," Kuechly said after Sunday night's 31-13 loss to the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome. "They got us today."

The Saints did to Carolina's second-ranked defense what no other team has done this season, what coach Ron Rivera and his players didn't think possible before this prime time game.

They did what I didn't think possible.

They made the defense look average.

Worse than average.

[+] EnlargeCarolina's Luke Kuechly
AP Photo/Dave MartinRe-signing free-agent tight end Jimmy Graham this offseason is a must for the Saints.
The Saints scored three touchdowns in the second quarter against a unit that had given up only three touchdowns in the previous four games. Quarterback Drew Brees threw four touchdowns against a unit that hadn't allowed more than two touchdowns in any game all season.

New Orleans' 247 yards a halftime were about 42 yards shy of what the Panthers were giving up per game.

What's worse, after being stopped on their first series, the Saints made it look easy.

They got almost no pressure on Brees even though they sacked him twice. Receivers got off the line of scrimmage and were allowed to roam the middle of the field as though they were invisible.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Brees was 22-of-26 against four or fewer pass-rushers, the highest completion percentage the Panthers have allowed in a game in the past six seasons.

The Saints were so effective that Carolina was forced to blitz more than normal, and that created more opportunities for receivers.

"It's frustrating," linebacker Thomas Davis said. "And to know we can go out and play better and not have that happen ... that's very disappointing."

It should be. Even more disappointing, the team that has been so good at making halftime adjustments never effectively did. The Panthers were lucky Marques Colston's knee hit the ground fractions of a second before he got the ball over the goal line for what would have been his third touchdown catch.

About the only bright spot was Carolina kept the Saints from scoring a touchdown on the next three plays.

"We didn't play very well," coach Ron Rivera said. "That was the bottom line."

The problems were across the board, from breakdowns in the secondary to giving Brees too much time to set and throw. He finished with a passer rating of 124.4 against a unit that was allowing an average of 77.4.

"Got to keep this fresh in our minds and use it against the Jets," safety Mike Mitchell said of Carolina's next opponent.

What he meant was correct the errors and take out the frustration players were feeling on the Jets just as the Saints took out their frustrations on the Panthers after a 34-7 loss to Seattle on Monday night.

"I hate losing," defensive end Greg Hardy said. "I'm going to be up tonight trying to figure out what I've got to do to get better."

The defense should lose sleep over this one. The Saints exposed an area that others certainly will attempt to.

As Davis said, "This one was on the defense."

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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