Saints’ defense struggling after first 2 weeks
As long as Drew Brees stays healthy, the New Orleans Saints’
offense is going to be just fine.
The defense? Now that’s a concern.
The Saints got pushed around for the second straight week,
allowing 463 total yards in a 35-27 loss to the Carolina Panthers
on Sunday. New Orleans fell to 0-2 for the first time since 2007
and finds itself alone in the NFC South cellar.
They’ve allowed 922 yards and 75 points in two games against
young quarterbacks Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III.
”We’re just not playing as good as we want to yet,” Saints
cornerback Malcolm Jenkins said. ”We had high expectations and
we’ve worked hard and prepared hard. We’ve got to jell and continue
to do the things we need to do to get better. We just have to
continue to chip away at this thing.”
The Saints will welcome an opportunity to face a team that
doesn’t run the zone-read option quite as much next Sunday. They
face another 0-2 team when they meet Matt Cassel and the Kansas
”If you look at our defense, and you look at the two offenses
we’ve played, we’ve played the most unconventional offenses in the
National Football League,” interim coach Aaron Kromer said. ”So
do we have to do better against those styles of offenses? Yeah, we
do. One thing we need to get settled in on is on that style. But
we’ve played two good offenses, and we just need to keep working at
it and plugging away.”
Quarterback Drew Brees, who had 325 yards passing and two
interceptions, is confident the Saints can turn things around.
”Unfortunately, we’ve done some things in these past two games
that have set us back,” Brees said. ”The important thing is
recognizing what those things are. I feel like we have that. Now
it’s just a matter of getting the extra break, having things go
your way, and getting on a win streak. We’ve done a great job of
doing that here in the past.”
Running back Pierre Thomas doesn’t blame the slow start on the
bounty scandal the Saints endured this past offseason, which
resulted in the suspension of coach Sean Payton for the entire
”What happened in the offseason, any issues we had, that has
nothing to do with this 0-2 start,” said Thomas, who had 110 yards
on nine carries.
The Saints’ defense had fits with Newton, who threw for 253
yards and ran for a career-high 71 yards.
”Times change,” wide receiver Steve Smith said of Carolina’s
first win over New Orleans since 2009.
The Panthers tied a club record last week with 10 yards rushing
in a loss to Tampa Bay. They had no such problems moving the ball
against the Saints. They got the running game going in the second
quarter and rolled up 219 yards on the ground and 463 overall.
Newton, DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert all scored on short
touchdown runs and Steve Smith overcame a sore knee to finish with
104 yards receiving – the 39th 100-yard receiving game of his
Jonathan Stewart hauled in a 17-yard touchdown catch for the
Panthers (1-1) and Brandon LaFell had six catches for 90 yards.
Newton kept the Saints off balance all day, running eight times
for 66 yards in the first half as coordinator Rob Chudzinski used a
variety of plays that allowed Carolina to take a 21-13 halftime
”You do read option, read option, read option and then get them
to play seven or eight in the box and you’ve got so many variations
of plays and passes you can run off that,” Newton said.
Added Tolbert: ”The zone read was one of the plays that we saw
on film that they was kind of vulnerable to. It was working, so we
stuck with it. They weren’t fitting the gaps right on that
When the Saints began to figure things out, Newton would find
open receivers who beat one-on-one matchups on the outside.
On one second-half play, there was not a defender within 20
yards of Smith when he hauled in a pass from Newton along the right
sideline and raced 66 yards before being dragged down.
”I was shocked just as much as anybody,” Newton said. ”Of all
of the people on this field to be wide open, you would think Smitty
would be the last person. But that is what type of pressure the
zone read gives us.”
Brees came in having won five straight starts against
The Panthers only sacked Brees once, but pressured him into
getting rid of the ball early several times. Brees was twice
flagged for intentional grounding.
Brees briefly appeared to be hurt in the third quarter when
defensive end Greg Hardy collapsed the pocket on came crashing down
on his leg from behind. Brees hobbled off the field but returned
for the next series, never missing a play.
”It’s fine,” Brees said. ”It just got rolled up on in an
The last time the Saints started 0-2 was five years ago when
they finished 7-9 and failed to make the playoffs.
”The challenge now is keeping from that mentality of why it’s
happening, or pointing fingers and saying `this guy isn’t doing
what he’s supposed to,”’ Saints tackle Zach Strief said. ”That’s
dangerous. That’s poisonous to a locker room.”
NOTES: The Panthers are 6-1 over the last two seasons in games
in which Newton does not throw an interception. … Smith was
carted to the locker room at one point in the third quarter after
reinjuring his knee, but returned to the game. He said afterward
he’s fine. … Pierre Thomas had 110 yards rushing for the Saints,
and Darren Sproles had 13 catches for 128 yards receiving. …
Charlotte Bobcats owner and former NBA great Michael Jordan took in
the game from a luxury suite.
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