It hasn’t all been perfect and there’s still plenty of room for improvement, but that does not change the fact the New Orleans Saints are now 2-0 as they continue through the 2023 season.
While showing some offensive issues for the majority of the game in a low-scoring affair, the Saints got the outcome they were after with a 20-17 win over the Carolina Panthers in Monday night action.
Here’s a look at three takeaways from the contest:
Derek Carr shows some struggles out of the gate
The veteran Carr entered the season with a bit of an adjustment to make as he prepared to suit up for the only other team he had ever played for in his NFL career, and he’s had his ups and downs.
Carr struggled for the better part of the game with consistency, showing some timing issues, poor decision-making and throwing the ball behind his targets. It took the majority of the game, but Carr finally settled into a semblance of a rhythm late in the second half as the Saints put 14 more points on the board after only scoring 6 points in the first two quarters.
Carr finished out the game 21-of-36 passing for 228 yards without a touchdown, but with a single interception that was nothing short of a bad look.
There’s plenty of work to be done here.
This was a BAD interception by Derek Carr
Thrown into triple coverage…pic.twitter.com/LLZchS10vg
— JPAFootball (@jasrifootball) September 19, 2023
Quality of receiving corps shines through
Hardly any player stood out offensively the way that wide receiver Chris Olave did, allowing the Saints to take the momentum with an outstanding one-handed grab on a deep pass down the sideline from Carr midway through the third quarter.
The snag set up the play that gave the Saints a 13-6 lead, previously tied at 6-6 with the Panthers.
CHRIS OLAVE JUST DID THAT.
— NFL (@NFL) September 19, 2023
While quarterback play needs to improve — as does pass protection that has been an issue to this point — there’s no question the Saints have the pass-catchers they need to light a spark in the passing game.
Olave finished out atop the receivers with six receptions for 86 yards, but Rashid Shaheed (four catches for 63 yards) and Michael Thomas (seven receptions for 55 yards) were just as important. If the Saints can fix their other offensive issues, this has the potential to be a great passing attack with what the wideouts bring to the table.
Defense comes up big
As the quarter-by-quarter score would imply, the defensive effort was the biggest story of the evening as the Saints held the Panthers to just 3 points in the first half before they were able to tack on 14 more in a late comeback effort that fell short.
While the team hardly played complementary football against Carolina, this unit is one to be excited about as potentially one of the best in the league that will be put to the test against the Green Bay Packers next week.
The Panthers offense found only minimal success against the Saints in spurts, limited to 95 rushing yards as standout Bryce Young finished with a lackluster stat line of 21-of-32 passing for 143 yards with one touchdown.
Safety Marcus Maye, linebacker Demario Davis, defensive lineman Nathan Shepherd and defensive end Carl Granderson each had one sack. Maye led the defense in tackles with seven combined, all of which were solo outside of one assist.