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CAROLINA PANTHERS AT NEW ORLEANS SAINTS, SUNDAY 8:30 P.M. NBC

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Carolina at New Orleans: Joseph Person’s three things to watch

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    Jonathan Ferrey - Getty Images
    New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees was held to 147 yards passing on Monday night at Seattle. Don’t expect that to happen Sunday against the Panthers, but controlling Brees will be a key for Carolina.
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    Jonathan Ferrey - Getty Images

See Brees throw deep

The Seahawks unveiled an effective blueprint Monday night on limiting Saints quarterback Drew Brees, whose 147 passing yards were his fewest in seven years. With Seattle keeping a safety deep, Brees was 0-for-8 on passes that traveled at least 15 yards, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Panthers free safety Mike Mitchell also aligns deep, but the Carolina secondary has given up three receptions of 53 yards or longer the past two games, including two to Miami’s Mike Wallace.

Get physical with Graham

Saints tight end Jimmy Graham is a transcendent player – a 6-7 matchup nightmare in the midst of another great season. But the former University of Miami basketball player is more of a finesse receiver than New England tight end Rob Gronkowski. Much like Seattle did last week, the Panthers need to get their hands on Graham and knock him off his routes. Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, who has struggled in coverage in recent weeks, has to do a better job playing the ball instead of the man.

Control the clock

The Panthers have been more of a grind-it-out offense this year under coordinator Mike Shula. They lead the league in time of possession (33:10), and their average time of possession on scoring drives (4:27) also ranks first. Putting together long drives against the Saints, second in the league in time of possession, will keep Brees on the sideline. Cam Newton is among the league leaders in third-down passing, and has kept drives alive with his feet when necessary.

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