Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Observations from Carolina's 30-7 victory over New Orleans:
For the first time in a long time, Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers dominated a game.
Peppers was the best player on the field, which is exactly what you need to be if you want to be the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL. Maybe not all the time, but at least part of the time.
What Peppers did against the Saints could make a lot of people forget he's been silent for most of the last year and a half. Peppers set up Carolina's first touchdown when he punched the ball out of the hands of New Orleans tight end Jeremy Shockey in the second quarter. Peppers used his quickness to run down Shockey and force the fumble.
Peppers also had a first-quarter sack and put the pressure on quarterback Drew Brees several other times. Brees had been playing like a most valuable player candidate through the first six weeks. On Sunday, he looked very ordinary.
That was mostly because of Peppers. He dominated left tackle Jammal Brown and threw the Saints off their game plan.
"Pep had a great game," defensive tackle Damione Lewis said. "He was constantly getting to the quarterback. He was unbelievable."
Yes, it was only one game, but it was a reminder of what Peppers is capable of doing.
If Peppers can do that a few more times, he'll have a big payday coming.
More than ever, I'm convinced Carolina's secondary is one of the league's best. Aside from one fourth-quarter mistake by rookie safety Charles Godfrey, it was hard to spot any flaws. That happened against a New Orleans passing attack that had been moving the ball at will.
Corners Ken Lucas, Chris Gamble and Richard Marshall might be the best trio in the league. Godfrey did well, except for one play, and has been solid all season. He and strong safety Chris Harris have the potential to become a very good safety tandem. No doubt Carolina's defense was the key to this victory. But give some of the credit to the Panthers' offense for slowing Brees. The Panthers ran 37 times and passed it 22 times while holding the ball for 33:01.
You can make a journalist into a general manager, but you can't take the sports writer out of him. Carolina general manager Marty Hurney, a former sports writer, committed a fashion faux pas Sunday. Hurney looked fine in a white dress shirt and tie -- until he turned around. Hurney was wearing some sort of Olympic design on the back and the Olympic rings were showing through vibrantly. After that was pointed out by a couple of sports writers, Hurney said he was going to put his jacket on. To his credit, he didn't.
Be careful what you wish for, Saints fans. You've been calling all season for veteran running back Deuce McAllister to get more carries. With Reggie Bush suffering a knee injury Sunday, McAllister may be back as the featured back. In a limited role, McAllister has shown he has something left in his knees. An extended role might be too much to ask of McAllister's knees.
If you're just looking at the stat sheet, you might not realize New Orleans wide receiver Marques Colston played in this game. He did. But Colston didn't have a catch as he returned to action for the first time since injuring his thumb in the first week of the season. Colston got the start, but really didn't make much of an impact. He was targeted three times and was the only active New Orleans receiver not to record a catch. Makes you wonder if the Saints might have brought Colston back a little too soon.
The Saints are leaving Charlotte tonight for London to begin preparing for Sunday's game with the Chargers. The flight is scheduled to take about seven hours, but it probably will seem more like 17 because of the ugly loss. The Saints are scheduled to arrive in London on Monday morning and won't practice until Wednesday.
The trip could provide more than the expected logistical challenges. Bush and center Jonathan Goodwin each left the game. If either player is going to be out for an extended period, the Saints may have to sign a player or two and get them to London on very short notice.