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Saints’ defensive coordinator Rob Ryan brings different challenge for Panthers

The Carolina Panthers had their way with the New Orleans Saints defense last year, posting 79 points, 993 yards of total offense and 51 first downs in their two wins.

But that was before Rob Ryan took over as defensive coordinator for New Orleans.

Ryan replaced Steve Spagnuolo this offseason and has taken a Saints defense that was statistically the worst in NFL history in 2012 and turned it into the eighth-best in the league this year.

“There were a lot of things about last season that players, coaches want to move on from and move past,” Payton said. “I credit them for anxiously getting started in the spring and offseason. I think Rob and his staff on defense have done a good job of really giving his players a plan they can really sink their teeth into, that fits their skillsets. His personality is contagious. He’s got a lot of passion for the sport and I think his players feed off that.”

The Panthers have studied game film from this year, and not as much from last year’s meetings. But coach Ron Rivera said his staff also looked at last year’s Dallas game.

Carolina lost to the Cowboys 19-14 at home in Week 7. Ryan was the defensive coordinator for Dallas, which held the Panthers to 85 rushing yards and created two turnovers in the win.

“This defense is different,” Rivera said. “What Rob does is a little more, I don’t want to say dynamic, but it most certainly is different from what they were last year. They were more of a 4-man front. Rob mixes it up. … He’s going to shift and move his guys around. He’s going to blitz. He’s going to be different and we’ve got to be on our Ps and Qs as far as that’s concerned.”

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