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Loss to Saints not blueprint for rest of NFL

12/13/2013

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- So the New Orleans Saints showed the rest of the NFL the blueprint for beating the Carolina Panthers' second-ranked defense. They exposed a unit that until Sunday night had not given up more than two touchdowns in a game this season.

The Panthers aren't buying it.

There's no reason to.

If the 31-13 victory that ended Carolina's eight-game winning streak was the blueprint, then Seattle's 34-7 victory against New Orleans six days earlier should have been the blueprint for beating the Saints. That certainly wasn't the case for the Panthers.

That probably won't be the case on Sunday when the New York Jets face Carolina, no matter how many secrets New Orleans defensive coordinator Rob Ryan shares with his brother Rex, the head coach of the Jets.

"We didn't do anything that Seattle did, or tried to do,'' Carolina safety Mike Mitchell said. "I don't think the league works like that. The league is about matchups and personnel. The Jets have a completely different personnel group, different players, so they can't do what the Saints do.

"Whatever their strengths are, they're going to try to do that to beat us. They're not going to try to run the Saints' offense, because they don't have the Saints' players.''

Exactly.

Last I looked, Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith ranked last in the NFL in passer rating at 62.4, having thrown nine touchdown passes and 20 interceptions. New Orleans' Drew Brees ranks sixth with a rating of 106.5, having thrown 33 touchdowns and only eight interceptions.

That says all you need to know.

Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes can call Carolina's secondary the weak link of the defense -- which it is because the front four and seven are so strong -- but that doesn't change that he has only 16 catches for 381 yards and one touchdown in 13 games.

He's not going to all of a sudden become Marques Colston and catch nine passes for 125 yards as the New Orleans receiver did on Sunday.

A blueprint only works if you've got the personnel to do the same things, and very few teams have the personnel New Orleans does. A blueprint only works if the Panthers play the same way they did against the Saints, and that isn't likely to happen.

"It was more us beating ourselves,'' Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said of Sunday' loss. "Not taking anything away from them at all, because they're a fine, fine football team. But really, it was us beating ourselves, fundamentally and technique wise.''

McDermott recalled the 2004 season at Philadelphia when he was the secondary/safeties coach. The Eagles won their first seven games, allowing more than 17 points in a game only once.

They were blown out 27-3 the next week at Pittsburgh.

Blueprint? Hardly. Philadelphia won its next six games, holding all but one opponent to 17 points or less. That team went on to the Super Bowl, where it lost to New England 24-21.

This isn't to suggest the Panthers (9-4) are going to end up in the Super Bowl. But it is a reminder that one loss doesn't provide the rest of the league with all the secrets to beating you.

"If they think that's the blueprint to beat us, then let them try to do that same thing again,'' linebacker Thomas Davis said. "Let a different team try to do that. It came down to us not executing like we needed to, like we had the previous weeks.

"When you have a good football team like the Saints and you don't execute against them, you're going to get beat.''

So what did the Carolina defense learn from the loss to New Orleans? Basically, that if you don't play fundamentally sound football anybody is beatable.

"Attacking the ball in the air, identifying receivers in different locations they're trying to get the ball to, just things we've been on top off all year and we just let slide,'' cornerback Drayton Florence said.

"We've only been beaten four times, so if there's a blueprint, obviously everybody is not buying into it. You know how it is in this league. Anybody can win any given Sunday.''

Now that is a proven blueprint.