BUFORD, Ga. -- I’ve set up temporary NFC South Blog headquarters here because it was a convenient and familiar stop on the way down from Charlotte on Sunday night. This is usually where I stay when I visit the Falcons during training camp at their nearby Flowery Branch facility.
But let’s start the day of with some statistical reflections on the Sunday games involving the Buccaneers, Panthers and Saints, with some help from ESPN Stats & Information:
In hindsight, maybe the Bucs shouldn’t have blitzed Eli Manning so much in their 41-34 loss to the New York Giants. When Tampa Bay sent a defensive back after Manning, he completed nine of 14 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns. In the fourth quarter alone, the Bucs blitzed Manning six times. In those situations, he completed four of six passes for 164 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown to Victor Cruz with 6:59 remaining.
The Bucs signed receiver Vincent Jackson as a free agent because they wanted a downfield threat for quarterback Josh Freeman. So far, that’s working out according to plan. Jackson was targeted eight times on passes at least 15 yards downfield. He caught five of them, all coming on throws of at least 17 yards, and finished with 128 yards and a touchdown.
The Bucs extended their road losing streak to eight games.
After rushing for only 10 yards in a season-opening loss to Tampa Bay, the Panthers rushed for 219 yards and three touchdowns on 41 attempts in Sunday’s 35-27 victory against New Orleans. It’s crucial to point out that a big part of the reason the Panthers had so much success running the ball was because they took advantage of quarterback Cam Newton’s ability to run the option. Of Carolina’s 41 rushing plays, 23 were designed options and the Panthers had 143 yards and a touchdown. In Week 1, the Panthers only ran one option play and it went for a five-yard loss.
Newton rushed for a career-high 71 yards and scored his 15th career rushing touchdown. That ties Newton with Steve Grogan for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in his first two seasons. Grogan set the record in 1975-76. With 14 games remaining, I doubt Newton’s going to remain tied with Grogan.
Carolina safety Charles Godfrey returned an interception nine yards for a touchdown. That’s a new team record for the shortest interception return for a touchdown in team history.
Last year, New Orleans’ Drew Brees led the NFL with a 59.8 completion percentage on throws of more than 10 yards downfield. In New Orleans’ 0-2 start, Brees hasn’t been nearly as efficient on such throws. He’s completed 18 of 36 passes (50 percent) of more than 10 yards.
The Saints have allowed 75 points in two games, tying them for worst in the league. The 75 points are the third-most allowed in team history through two games.
The Saints are 0-2 for only the second time in the last 15 seasons. The only other time they’ve lost their first two in that span was 2007, when they started 0-4 and failed to make the playoffs.