NFC South: 2013 Week 14 CAR at NO Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: New Orleans Saints

December, 8, 2013

NEW ORLEANS -- A few thoughts on the New Orleans Saints31-13 victory over the Carolina Panthers.

What it means: This win was about as big as it could get for the Saints. At 10-3, they’re now in great position to win the NFC South and secure the conference's No. 2 seed. Just as important, they quickly got their mojo back after a humbling loss at Seattle six nights ago. Not that there was any concern that the Saints lacked confidence. But to come out and give such a dynamic performance on both sides of the ball on a short week spoke a lot about the Saints’ ability to respond to adversity.

The Saints will play at Carolina (9-4) again in two weeks. Even if they split the series, the Saints would win the tiebreaker if both teams finish 12-4. The Saints need to win any two of their final three games to clinch the NFC South (at St. Louis, at Carolina, vs. Tampa Bay).

Brees hits 50,000: Saints quarterback Drew Brees became the fifth quarterback in NFL history to throw for 50,000 yards in his career -- joining Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino and John Elway. He also set an NFL record with his eighth consecutive 4,000-yard season. And he reached both thresholds with an exclamation point -- completing 30 of 42 passes for 313 yards and four touchdowns against the Panthers.

The Saints have won 13 consecutive night games inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, including the playoffs. In those games, Brees has thrown for 43 touchdowns and four interceptions.

Stock watch: Nobody was more clutch for the Saints than Marques Colston. He had a monster night, with nine catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns. But his biggest catch was his first one -- a terrific, reaching grab for 21 yards on third-and-9 in the first quarter. The Saints were in danger of going three-and-out on their first two drives before Colston made that catch. From that point on, they took off.

Colston has had one of his quietest seasons this year, with only 596 yards and two touchdowns coming into the night. But he proved again that he’s available as a go-to guy for Brees when needed.

Racking up sacks: Saints outside linebacker Junior Galette had three sacks, and end Cameron Jordan had two. Jordan, who seems like a shoo-in for his first Pro Bowl, now has 11.5 sacks this season.

What’s next: The Rams (5-8), the Saints' next opponent, have lost two straight games, including 30-10 at Arizona on Sunday. But they've had some impressive wins in an up-and-down season. So the Saints can’t fall asleep at the wheel -- especially on the road, where they've been inconsistent this season.

Rapid Reaction: Carolina Panthers

December, 8, 2013

NEW ORLEANS -- A few thoughts on the Carolina Panthers' 31-13 loss to the New Orleans Saints:

What it means: That the winning streak ends at eight. That the Panthers (9-4) got a taste of what New Orleans got from the Seahawks six days ago on "Monday Night Football." Nobody should be surprised. The Saints (10-3) have been doing this to almost every team in the Superdome this season. The key for Carolina will be to bounce back next week the way New Orleans did after its 34-7 loss to Seattle. The Panthers likely need to win at least two of their three final games to get into the playoffs as a wild card. Arizona is lurking at 8-5, and the Cardinals own the tiebreaker based on a 22-6 victory over the Panthers on Oct. 6. Winning the NFC South is almost out of the question now. It would take New Orleans losing two of its final three -- including in Charlotte on Dec. 22 -- and Carolina winning out.

Stock watch: The defense that was ranked No. 2 in the league, No. 1 in scoring with 13.1 points allowed per game, was made to look very average by Saints quarterback Drew Brees & Co. The Saints had 21 points at halftime -- more than any other team scored against Carolina during the eight-game winning streak. Wide receiver Marques Colston looked uncovered much of the game, particularly over the middle, where he caught a couple of touchdowns. The front four got little pressure on Brees, who completed 30 of 42 pass attempts for 313 yards and four touchdowns. The Panthers hadn't given up but three touchdowns period in the past four games and hadn't given up more than two in a game all season. They were allowing only 289.8 yards total per game.

Stock watch II: Cam Newton really wasn't a factor, which is something you haven't read for eight straight games. The Saints kept him bottled up, sacking him five times and holding him completely in check until a late-game touchdown pass. He got back into his habit of holding the ball way too long, which led to a few of the sacks.

Missed opportunities: The Panthers had two opportunities in the red zone in the first quarter and got only two field goals out of it. On the second they had first-and-goal from the 10 with a 3-0 lead and a chance to make a statement. When they didn't, New Orleans did.

No good: The Panthers were so out of sync that place-kicker Graham Gano, who had missed only two field goals all season, missed a 49-yarder in the third quarter that he normally makes with his eyes closed in ideal conditions like this.

What's next? The Panthers return home to face the New York Jets. It will be the first time the teams have met since 2009, when the Jets won 17-6 at home. The Jets lead the series 3-2.