The New Orleans Saints lost to the Carolina Panthers 35-27 on Sunday, September 16, to fall to 0-2 on the season. So far this year, the Saints look like a completely different team when compared to last year's squad that finished 13-3 and set numerous NFL records. At this point, the Saints have a lot of improving to do to have a chance of contending for a postseason bid, starting with the run defense.
The Panthers used a relentless rushing attack, with running backs DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert combining for 123 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. Quarterback Cam Newton was effective on the ground as well, grabbing 71 yards and a score himself, while receiver Brandon LaFell contributed 25 rushing yards on one run. For the second consecutive week, New Orleans often looked lost when trying to stop a quarterback who could effectively run the football, as Newton seemed to control the entire game with his feet and his arm.
As for the Saints' running game, it is absolutely frustrating to see Mark Ingram get attempts when Pierre Thomas is playing so well. Ingram gained 53 yards on 16 carries in the game, good for a 3.3 yard average per attempt. On the other hand, Thomas racked up 110 yards while only carrying the ball nine times. Of course, Thomas also contributes to the passing game, adding four receptions for 33 yards against the Panthers.
In the end, the Saints just could not keep up with the Panthers, allowing 21 unanswered points in the second and third quarters. The New Orleans secondary is allowing too many big pass plays, but the major problem lies in the run defense. Unfortunately, things will not get any easier for the Saints, who will face the Kansas City Chiefs next. While Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel will not pose as much of a rushing threat, backs Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis surely will. The Saints will have to play better against the run in order to finally earn their first win.
Mike Patton is a sports fan who grew up in New Orleans cheering for the New Orleans Saints, Chicago Cubs, and LSU Tigers. As a kid in 1987, he made his first trip to Wrigley Field and also slept outside of the Louisiana Superdome to purchase playoff tickets for the Saints' first postseason appearance. Follow Mike on twitter @MikePattonGBS.
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