NFC South: 2013 Week 6 Upon Further Review

Upon Further Review: Panthers Week 6

October, 14, 2013
MINNEAPOLIS -- A review of five hot issues from the Carolina Panthers' 35-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings:

Insider trading: Look no further than Thomas Davis as yet another reason the Panthers were willing to trade Jon Beason to the Giants. Davis was moved from weakside to strongside linebacker during training camp to get Beason, coming off knee surgery, back on the field. But after two games it became apparent that Beason had lost a step at weakside, and that Carolina was better when Davis could move between weakside and strongside. That was most evident on Sunday when Davis had the first two-sack game of his career to go along with a team-high nine tackles. One of the sacks came at weakside and the other in the nickel package. It was the third sack in the past three games. The other came when Carolina first sat Beason against the New York Giants. He should have had another last week at Arizona.

[+] EnlargeCarolina's Thomas Davis
Hannah Foslien/Getty ImagesThomas Davis had a team-high nine tackles, including two sacks, against the Vikings.
Deeper into Newton's day: We already knew that Newton missed only six passes for the second-highest completion percentage (76.9) of his career. But if you look at passes within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage he was an amazing 18-for-21 (85.7 percent), the highest completion percentage of his career on such attempts. According to ESPN Stats & Information, only six quarterbacks had completed a higher percentage of those throws in a game this season heading into Week 6. Newton's percentage on those throws in the first four games was 63.2 percent. He had one touchdown and two interceptions compared to two touchdowns and no interceptions on Sunday.

Gambling man: Ron Rivera, who had gambled on fourth down less than every coach in the NFL except Denver's John Fox since 2011 after Week 2, has been successful on three of five attempts in the past three games. That ties for the 15th most in the NFL for the season. Carolina's 60 percent fourth-down percentage rate ranks tied for sixth in the league. In other words, expect the Panthers to continue to take chances inside the opponents 35-yard line.

1-2-3-4 punch: I asked Ron Rivera on Sunday if he hadn't put guard Amini Silatolu (ACL) on injured reserve because he was waiting to use that roster spot on running back Jonathan Stewart, available to come off the PUP list on Monday. "We'll see," he said. The addition of Stewart would give the Panthers one of the best running attacks in the league. They already are solid as evidenced again on Sunday when DeAngelo Williams had 64 yards on 17 carries, Mike Tolbert 27 yards on eight carries and quarterback Cam Newton 30 yards on nine carries. With Stewart they may have to change the nickname "Double Trouble" -- Williams and Stewart -- to "Quadruple Trouble."

Garbage time: Maybe Steve Smith's comments aimed at umpire Dan Ferrell paid off. Remember? Smith called Ferrell "garbage" and the "sorriest" official he'd ever met for allowing the Arizona defensive backs to be so aggressive with him last week. On Carolina's first drive against Minnesota, cornerback Chris Cook was called for holding Smith on third down to keep the drive alive. Asked if his comments may have helped, Smith smiled and said, "All I know is he was grabbing me -- again. I had a good catch on a slant. That's all I can say." Smith still hasn't heard from the NFL on a possible fine, and doesn't expect to at this point.

Upon Further Review: Buccaneers Week 6

October, 14, 2013
TAMPA, Fla. -- An examination of four hot issues from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 31-20 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The hot seat: There's no doubt that coach Greg Schiano has entered hot-seat territory. He's lost his first five games of this season and 10 of his past 11 dating back to last season. It's probably a bit too early to expect ownership to pull the plug and go with an interim coach. But the clock is ticking and all the off-field distractions aren't helping. If there isn't dramatic improvement soon, Schiano's NFL tenure could be a short one.

[+] EnlargeDarrelle Revis
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesIs Tampa Bay's zone defense limiting Darrelle Revis' effectiveness?
The zone defense: Cornerback Darrelle Revis appeared to be looking for safety help on one touchdown pass and the Bucs seemed to be in zone on another touchdown. Revis might be the best cover corner in the league, but the Bucs aren't maximizing his skills.

The rookie might have a future: Quarterback Mike Glennon wasn't great in his second start, but he wasn't bad either. Glennon completed 26 of 43 passes for 273 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Glennon, who isn't known for his mobility, also scrambled for a 16-yard gain. It's early, but there were some signs that Glennon can succeed in the NFL.

All for nothing? Linebacker Lavonte David is having a Pro Bowl-caliber season. On Sunday, he had a team-high nine tackles, a sack and two quarterback hits. But as long as the Bucs keep losing, David is not going to get a lot of Pro Bowl votes.

Upon Further Review: Saints Week 6

October, 14, 2013
An examination of four hot issues from the New Orleans Saints’ 30-27 loss to the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium:

Graham silenced: Saints tight end Jimmy Graham didn’t catch a pass Sunday after racking up four consecutive 100-yard games previously. In a rare tactic, the Patriots used standout cornerback Aqib Talib to shadow Graham for much of the game, as well as frequent double teams. But Graham’s shutout was only a mild surprise, since it’s obvious that a defense would try to do whatever it could to contain him. The bigger surprise was that the Saints weren’t able to exploit their other options.

[+] EnlargeJimmy Graham
Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty ImagesJimmy Graham was held without a catch in Sunday's loss to the Patriots.
Receiver Marques Colston had just one catch for 11 yards. Quarterback Drew Brees completed just 17 of 36 passes overall (his biggest coming late when he nailed receiver Kenny Stills for a 34-yard touchdown in double coverage). The Patriots succeeded by getting physical with the Saints, chipping with big guys at the line of scrimmage and running a lot of bump-and-run coverage with their defensive backs.

The good news for the Saints is that such a game plan requires great execution across the board. Maybe other defenses will try to copy the plan, but that doesn’t mean they’ll pull it off.

Graham injured: The bigger concern going forward for the Saints is that Graham left the field late in the fourth quarter with an apparent ankle injury. Graham briefly went back into the game after being taped up, but he eventually limped off the field. The team didn’t offer any postgame updates. Fortunately for the Saints, they have a bye in Week 7 to give him extra time to heal. Perhaps receiver Lance Moore will be close to returning from a hand injury in Week 8, too.

Second guessing? The Saints gave Patriots quarterback Tom Brady too many chances to win the game before he finally pulled it off with five seconds remaining. Since hindsight is 20-20, perhaps Saints coach Sean Payton wishes he was more aggressive in his play calling on New Orleans’ final two drives (the Saints attempted one pass on third-and-7 on the first drive and none on the second drive). But Payton didn’t want to throw incomplete passes and stop the clock. He also said he trusted his defense the way it was playing -- and rightly so.

“We can wrestle with that for a while, but they made the stops when they needed to, got the ball back and made plays,” Payton said.

Defense comes close: The Saints' defense ultimately folded with five seconds remaining when cornerback Jabari Greer let receiver Kenbrell Thompkins get behind him in the end zone. It’s a shame the game ended on that note, though, because New Orleans’ defense had been downright dominant for most of the final three quarters. It had held New England out of the end zone on eight previous possessions, including an interception by cornerback Keenan Lewis on the second-to-last drive. The Saints also sacked Brady five times.

Greer shouldered the blame for letting that final play get past him. But he wasn’t the only one.

“We know how to finish. And we never counted them out. They just finished, and we didn’t,” Saints pass-rusher Junior Galette said. “The end result was we didn’t finish, and we’re in the business of winning.”