Saints' next opponent looks awfully familiar

December, 4, 2013
12/04/13
7:00
PM ET
METAIRIE, La. -- About the only good thing that came out of the New Orleans Saints' 34-7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night was they got a chance to prepare for their next opponent -- the Carolina Panthers.

Saints players and coach Sean Payton all agreed Wednesday that the Panthers (9-3) pose a lot of the same kinds of threats as Seattle on both sides of the ball -- starting with the quarterback position.

[+] EnlargeCam Newton
Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/MCT via Getty ImagesCam Newton and the Panthers pose many of the same problems that Seattle did.
Even though Carolina's Cam Newton (6-foot-5, 245 pounds) is much bigger than Seattle's Russell Wilson (5-foot-11, 206) they pose a similar threat to run the ball -- or to keep passing plays alive by scrambling outside of the pocket.

Their numbers are almost identical (Newton averages 218 passing yards and 37 rushing yards per game; Wilson 223 and 38).

"If you just write down on paper what it is that they do well, they are very similar," Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "They can extend plays with their legs, they have a big arm and can throw downfield. They run the ball well as a team and they are very patient. That is what we just faced, and that is what we are going to face this week.

"They run the ball all day and then they hit these big, explosive plays down field. Or if something is not there, you have Cam Newton extending the play by getting out of the pocket, running or someone getting open late in the play and he makes the throw."

Obviously the Saints will need to do a much better job than they did against Wilson, who threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another 47 yards in Monday's rout.

But Jenkins said the Saints remain confident in a defense that has played great all year long -- and believes they will learn from their mistakes. Seattle made the Saints pay for devoting too much attention to running back Marshawn Lynch with play-action fakes, and Wilson burned the Saints' blitzes with big throws down the field.

"I think we just had a bad outing and we will learn a lot from this game," Jenkins said. "It wasn't just the mobile quarterback that killed us, it was the big plays down field in the secondary that hurt us. And then when we did get some stops, the quarterback would scramble, get a crucial first down and extend the play and the drive. There were a lot of things that we can learn from and obviously help us out going forward."

Likewise, Saints tight end Benjamin Watson said he sees a lot of similarities between the Panthers' defense and the Seahawks' defense -- the top-two ranked units in the NFL in both points allowed and yards allowed. Carolina ranks first in the NFL in points (13.1 per game) and second in yards (289.8 per game).

"[Carolina's] defense is playing tremendous football right now," said Watson, who agreed that lessons can be learned from the Seattle loss.

"You definitely don't write it off or flush it, because there's things that you can learn from losses like that -- huge losses as well as close losses and huge victories," Watson said. "We're going to learn from it. At the same time, we do have to move on. And that's why whenever we play there's always the mentality that you enjoy the wins for a day or so and you endure the losses for a day or so, because there's another team coming that you have to play."

Payton also pointed out one area where the Seahawks and Panthers are similar – both teams are playing with a lot of "confidence" right now. Carolina has won eight straight games, more than any current streak in the NFL.

"They are the hottest team in the NFL." Payton said. "They are playing with a lot of confidence and playing well on defense and the kicking game and playing outstanding on offense. Coach [Ron] Rivera and his staff do a great job and you can see that confidence show up on tape."

Mike Triplett

ESPN New Orleans Saints reporter

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