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Coach From The Couch: Saints vs Panthers Review

Talk about raising your blood pressure. The Saints were able to hold off the Panthers 12-9 on Monday Night Football. I knew that this game was going to be close but I did not expect this kind of outcome. Growing up, you would normally watch a football game for the pure entertainment. Nowadays, I am always locked in on every single snap and observing the game as if I was a player or coach watching film. This series will highlight certain moments in a game where I give an average Joe opinion on what the Saints should or should not have done. Let us begin shall we:

Opening Kickoff

For the third straight week, the Saints started the game by kicking off. To me, that is a sign of Sean Payton wanting his defense to set the tone early in the game. However, with the offense on a horrible slump, they should always take the ball first if they win the coin toss. History has shown that the Saints offense thrives when opening up the game. This season, they have had 8 opening drives with 6 resulting in touchdowns. Even their drive against Ravens was a factor because, even though they did not score, they ate away majority of the first quarter and wore down the Ravens defense. So if I’m Sean Payton and I win the toss, I’m taking the ball first and letting my offense put in work.

Carolina Scoring Drive

This was the only bad drive for the Saints defense all night long. They had the Panthers pinned deep in their own territory but allowed a big completion on 3rd and 10 coupled with a roughing the passer call. Nothing they could have done as they played man coverage and Curtis Samuel ran a good route to get separation to make the catch. What really hurt the most was the two plays that lead to the touchdown. On 3rd and 9, DJ Moore makes the catch, gets knocked backwards and somehow manages to get back two yards away from a first down. Then the dagger comes in as Carolina runs a HB Pass with Christian McCaffrey throwing to a wide open Chris Manhertz for a 50-yard TD. The Saints defense blew the coverage obviously but in that situation you should always have someone playing a short zone at the marker in case a play like this occurs. Looking closer, it should have been Marcus Williams’ responsibility to cover Manhertz. I’m sure Dennis Allen was livid as was I.

Getting Away From The Run

We all know Sean Payton is an aggressive play caller. However, there were several instances where I feel he was too aggressive and it cost the team at times. On the drive with less than 5 minutes in the second half, he called 4 consecutive passes with only the first call getting yards and ultimately having to punt. The next drive, knowing we get the ball back after halftime, he decides to call a deep route to Dan Arnold who can’t haul it in and is intercepted. Another instance came on their second drive in the second half where after a roughing the punter call, dialed up 3 passes in a row and stalled the drive again. I just did not understand why we got away from running the ball when we have Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara both average almost 5 yards a carry at the time. Specifically, the two minute drill drive was very frustrating because they could have gotten 3 points at the least. I’m a firm believer that if you have a solid run game, run the ball on 1st down and maybe 2nd depending on the yardage but don’t ever take away a part your game plan to fit your persona.

Take The Points

I’ll keep this one short and to the point. We score a touchdown to go up 12-7. Just kick the extra point and go up 6 because the way your defense had been playing, the game would have been over with the last Saints possession. Furthermore, by taking the extra point, Tommy Lee Lewis does not get that hand off and loses the ball out of bounds to give Carolina a last chance to at least tie the game or win it. Instead, we put ourselves in a position to kick a field goal to make it a two possession game and out of reach. Same thing against the Cowboys, had we taken the points instead of going for it, the outcome of the game may have been different.

The Saints ultimately came out with the win but it sure was a nail biter. If they had made a few different calls here and there, it may have been over sooner. Defense has been playing on an elite level of late and it’s a damn good feeling to know that. Offensively, the Saints need the young guys to step up in a big way. I don’t know if Payton and Brees lost their favorite recipe the last few weeks but they better find it quick before the postseason. If they can’t, I will gladly provide one for them because running the offense is like making gumbo: you can have a lot of ingredients in a pot but if one thing is off it will ruin the whole batch.