Friday, December 20, 2013
How much will Saints, Panthers tweak?
By Mike Triplett
METAIRIE, La. -- From game planning to execution, just about everything the New Orleans Saints did against the Carolina Panthers two weeks ago worked brilliantly in a 31-13 rout in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Everything went according to plan for Jimmy Graham and the Saints in their recent meeting against the Panthers.
So now the question is, how much do they need to change things up as they face the same team 14 days later in Carolina?
Saints players and coaches said this week that they expect "tweaks" from both teams. But at this stage of the season, nobody is expecting any dramatic changes.
"I think the good teams do what they do good. They don't switch it up. It's more like, 'You've got to stop what we do,'" Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton said -- though he stressed that he definitely expects some new "wrinkles" from Carolina's offense. And he doesn't automatically expect the same results.
The Saints did a great job of containing quarterback Cam Newton in that game (five sacks, 160 passing yards, one touchdown pass and six runs for 48 yards).
They did an excellent job of staying disciplined against read-option runs and play-action fakes -- something that burned the Saints earlier this month at Seattle. Although Newton ran for 48 yards, the Saints made sure to keep coverage down the field to prevent him from throwing deep after being flushed from the pocket. Almost all of the sacks came when Newton was stuck deep in the pocket, unable to find an open receiver.
Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan thrives more than anyone on being unpredictable. So he said it does make it "difficult" to decide how much to keep the same and how much to switch it up.
"I liked our plan a lot the last time we played them. That makes it difficult," Ryan said. "But this time of year it's going to come down to -- there's not one coach going to make a play -- these players are going to come through for us, make the plays and get us this big win we've been needing."
Obviously the New Orleans Saints' offense was happy with its plan, as well.
Quarterback Drew Brees threw for 313 yards and four touchdown passes in that game -- two to Marques Colston and two to Jimmy Graham -- against a Carolina defense that hasn't allowed more than one touchdown pass in any other game all season.
"I think in the red zone they're gonna do some different things, because of what me and Colston were able to do the last game. And teams always seem to find a way to do different things to me," said Graham, who probably sees as much variety of defensive schemes against him from week to week as any player in the NFL.
"[But usually] in the first series, you're able to see who they're gonna put on you, if they're gonna jam you every time, what they're gonna do to you when you're split out. So we'll have a good handle on that after the first drive or two."
Added Brees: "You know that everybody's going to have new wrinkles for you offensively, defensively, you name it. They do have certain schemes, and they are what they are. But then again you know that you're going to see something you haven't seen before, and you've got to be prepared for it and ready to make an adjustment, and that's the way it goes."