With the Carolina Panthers mired in a seven-game skid that has stretched over the past two months, veteran linebacker Thomas Davis might have been looking for something to motivate his reeling team.
He found it in the Panthers’ last trip to New Orleans.
Davis says the Saints tried to run the score up on the Panthers at the end of the Saints’ 31-13 win in a prime-time matchup in the Superdome last December.
Davis took issue with the pass plays Saints coach Sean Payton continued to call with New Orleans leading by three scores in the fourth quarter.
“They got a big lead on us and they were still dropping back trying to throw the ball deep. That speaks volumes when you have a team down and it’s late in the fourth quarter and you’re still trying to throw the ball deep,” Davis told reporters Thursday.
“That’s their offense. That’s their team. They can run it, do whatever they want to do. But that’s a sign of disrespect.”
Davis has had problems with the Saints in the past, saying they were trying to set individual records at the end of a 45-17 win against Carolina in the regular-season finale in 2011.
Davis didn’t play in that game, but he was on the field last season in New Orleans, where the Saints led 24-6 when they got the ball back early in the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Drew Brees was 6-of-8 passing on the Saints’ ensuing scoring drive, culminating with an 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jimmy Graham that put New Orleans up 31-6.
After the Panthers scored on a long touchdown drive on their next possession to make it 31-13, the Saints went three-and-out, with Payton calling pass plays on two of the three snaps.
On third-and-24, Brees threw a check-down pass to running back Pierre Thomas that came up well short of the first down.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera was diplomatic when asked about the Saints’ end-of-game approach, saying, “That’s some people’s philosophy.”
Asked if he reminded his players what the Saints did at the end of last year’s game, Rivera said: “I haven’t had to.”
“It ticks me off,” Rivera said. “But hey, if we want to correct it then we’ve got to do something about it. I’m not going to tell (Payton) how to run his football team and he’s not going to tell me how to run mine.”
The Saints (5-7) have the league’s second-ranked offense, averaging 430.3 yards a game. Brees leads the No. 3 passing offense, with an average of 303.9 yards.
The Panthers (3-8-1) are 17th in the league in total defense, after ranking second behind Seattle in 2013 when they went 12-4 and won the NFC South.
In the teams’ first meeting this year – a 28-10 win by the Saints in a Thursday night matchup Oct. 30 – the Panthers failed to score off a pair of turnovers by Brees on the Saints’ first two drives.
Brees wound up completing 24-of-34 passes for 297 yards and a touchdown; Panthers quarterback Cam Newton had the worst statistical game of his career.
Newton posted career lows in completions (10), completion percentage (35.7) and passer rating (39.4). He also lost two turnovers and was sacked four times.
Newton wasn’t interested in getting pulled into a discussion about whether the Saints ran up the score in the 2013 game.
“They won. That’s the only edge I need,” Newton said. “That’s the truth of the matter. I don’t need a lot of things to keep me going. Nobody really has to say anything.”
New Orleans has lost three in a row at home, its longest skid at the Superdome since Payton arrived in 2006.
But Davis says their offensive attack remains potent.
“The Saints will definitely try to run the score up on you if you allow them to. They’re a good offense,” he said. “They play extremely well in the dome, although their record doesn’t show that in the last three games that they played there. But we understand what kind of challenge we have defensively. With Drew Brees running that show they’re a tough offense to stop.”
Like Rivera, Davis says if the Panthers don’t want Brees to hang a big number on them Sunday, it’s up to them to stop him.
“As a player, you’ve got to go out and you’ve got to compete. You can’t sit back and think they’re going to feel sorry for us,” Davis said. “We had three or four quarters to get it done the right way. And if they get a big lead, then shame on us.”