NFC South: 2012 Week 5 coverage

Wrap-up: Saints 31, Chargers 24

October, 7, 2012

Thoughts on the New Orleans Saints' 31-24 victory against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome:

What it means: It was a nice night for the Saints. Suspended coach Sean Payton, assistant head coach Joe Vitt and general manager Mickey Loomis were given special permission to attend the game and witness history. They did. They got to witness Drew Brees break Johnny Unitas’ record by throwing a touchdown pass in his 48th straight game. The Saints also got their first win of the season. But the reality is it’s probably too little, too late. They’re 1-4 and, unless they go on some sort of dramatic run, their chances of making the playoffs are slim.

The “other streak’’ ends: Safety Roman Harper came up with a fourth-quarter interception. Might not sound like a big deal, but it was significant. Harper and fellow safety Malcolm Jenkins didn’t produce an interception all last season or in the first four games of this season.

Colston’s big game: The night belonged to Brees, for obvious reasons, but receiver Marques Colston had a memorable night. Colston had nine catches for 131 yards and three touchdowns. After starting the season slowly, Colston got healthy and has had two big games in a row.

Signs of hope: Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and his defense took a lot of criticism in the first four weeks of the season. But there were signs Sunday night that Spagnuolo's defense is taking hold. It wasn't spectacular, but there were a few times when I saw sacks that were the result of coverage. When you're relying on your front four for your pass rush, you need some help from the guys in coverage.

Meachem’s revenge: In part because the Saints were in the process of making Brees the NFL’s highest-paid player, they didn’t have the salary-cap room to keep Robert Meachem, a former first-round draft pick. But Meachem provided the Saints with a reminder of what they’re missing. He caught two touchdown passes.

What’s next: The Saints have a bye week. They’ll return to action Oct. 21 at Tampa Bay.

Wrap-up: Seahawks 16, Panthers 12

October, 7, 2012
Thoughts on the Carolina Panthers’ 16-12 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium:

What it means: The Panthers had a golden chance to right their season. They squandered it. Instead of heading into the bye week at 2-3, they fell to 1-4. Their playoff hopes are probably shot unless they can dig themselves out of a deep hole. A season that began with extremely high expectations seems to be spinning out of control.

Play of the day: Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn intercepted a Russell Wilson pass and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown to put the Panthers ahead early in the third quarter.

Wasted opportunities: The Panthers also came up with two other turnovers in the third quarter, but they didn’t capitalize. Munnerlyn’s interception was the only one of those three turnovers that resulted in points.

What happened to the offense? Remember last year, when people were referring to offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski as a genius? Well, they’re not using that term these days. The Panthers had just 190 total yards. I know Seattle has a very good defense. But when you have an offense that includes talent like Cam Newton, Jonathan Stewart, Steve Smith, DeAngelo Williams and Greg Olsen, you should produce a lot more than 190 yards and 12 points.

What’s next: The Panthers are entering their bye week. They’ll return to action Oct. 21, when they host the Dallas Cowboys.

LANDOVER, Md. -- Thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons’ 24-17 victory against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field on Sunday.

What it means: The Falcons are 5-0 for the first time in franchise history. They’re also high atop the NFC South standings. This was not a particularly pretty game, but there’s a nice trend developing. The Falcons, who many view as a “dome team," have won three outdoor games already this season. This one came on a day that was cool and rainy.

Play of the day: With the Redskins driving, cornerback Dunta Robinson saved the game for the Falcons with an interception with 1:53 remaining.

Hit of the day: Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon knocked Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III out of the game with a big hit in the third quarter. The Redskins said Griffin was “shaken up," and he did not return to the game. He was replaced by Kirk Cousins, who threw two fourth-quarter interceptions.

One thing I never want to see again: Joe Hawley attempting to catch a pass. With fullback Lousaka Polite out with an injury, the Falcons sometimes used Hawley as a blocking back. But with 5:50 left in the third quarter, the Falcons tried to throw a pass to Hawley. He was wide open, but the ball went right off his hands. When you have the talent at the skill positions that the Falcons have, Hawley should never be thrown the ball.

He never gets old: Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez has said he’s 95 percent sure he’ll retire after this season. He might want to rethink that. Gonzalez had a huge day, catching 13 passes for 123 yards.

What’s next: The Falcons host the Oakland Raiders next Sunday.