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New Orleans Saints expose Carolina Panthers’ weaknesses

Tom Sorensen
Tom Sorensen has been a columnist at The Observer for 20 years and has been at the paper for 25, writing about nearly every sport in the Carolinas.
1209Panthers_334
David T. Foster, III - dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com
Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera (center) looks up while playing the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 8, 2013. New Orleans won, 31-13.

NEW ORLEANS To beat New Orleans in New Orleans you have to get to Drew Brees. You have to sack him, chase him and make him move. You have to hit him and disrupt his timing. If your line can’t do it, you have to gamble and get him with the blitz.

If Brees gets time, New Orleans wins. Brees got time Sunday night against Carolina.

The Saints won 31-13.

The Superdome was jammed for this one. I dare you to find an empty seat.

The only no-show was the Carolina pass rush.

The Panthers stopped the Saints on their first series. Three plays gained 5 yards, and the Saints punted.

The next time New Orleans had the ball it drove 80 yards for a touchdown. The time after that the Saints drove 86 yards for a touchdown. The time after that the Saints drove 76 yards for a touchdown.

Was Carolina’s secondary exposed? Of course it was. It looked like the Legion of Gloom.

But what would you expect?

Brees is a Hall of Fame quarterback. If he gets time, he exposes cornerbacks, safeties and linebackers. He exposes them if they’re average and he exposes them if they’re below average and he exposes them if they’re good.

The ease with which Brees’ blockers held off the Panthers’ defenders – and by hold off I’m not suggested they were holding because officials had nothing to do with the outcome of this one – was startling.

Sometimes Brees had to move to find receivers. On most passes he simply stood behind his blockers and calmly and quickly found an open receiver.

It was late in the third quarter before Carolina’s blitzes began to get to Brees. He threw 41 passes before he was sacked for a loss.

On this field, in front of these fans, the absence of pressure assures a victory for the home team.

So, what now?

Last week the Saints played at Seattle and were handled, outclassed and used. The Seahawks beat them 34-7.

The Saints went home and you saw how they performed Sunday in their comeback game. They couldn’t wait to remind each other, as well as the Panthers and Who Dat Nation, who they are.

Next week the Panthers get the New York Jets at home. The Jets have won one road game all season, against Atlanta in early October. But for a bad team they’ve beaten good teams. They beat New England in October and they beat New Orleans in November.

Anybody that overreacts to one loss, to the Saints, in New Orleans, is foolish. The Panthers have an opportunity to remind themselves, as well as the rest of the world, who they are against the Jets. And then they get the rematch with the Saints, in Charlotte, Dec. 22.

The Saints didn’t expose the Panthers. The Saints exposed Carolina’s weaknesses all night long.

Brandon LaFell dropped a first-down pass when Carolina was still in the game. Cam Newton started well but lost his way, repeatedly holding the ball and allowing the New Orleans rush to take him down.

The Panthers made mistakes, committed poorly timed penalties and came undone.

The team that won eight straight games, the team that beat San Francisco on the road and New England at home, was not the team we saw in the Superdome.

To accomplish what they hope to this season, the Panthers can’t be this team again.

Sorensen: 704-358-5129; tsorensen@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @tomsorensen
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