clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Saints vs. Panthers 2014 final score: 3 things we learned from New Orleans' 28-10 win

New, comment

The Saints' defense stifled Carolina and the offense rode a scoring splurge just before halftime to roll to a division win.

Grant Halverson

The New Orleans Saints used a late second-quarter scoring surge to turn a low-scoring stalemate into a comfortable win on Thursday Night Football. The Saints scored twice in the final three minutes of the first half to take a two-touchdown lead and held Cam Newton in check down the stretch to win 28-10 over the Carolina Panthers.

Mark Ingram ran for two touchdowns, Drew Brees threw for one and ran for another as the Saints took firm control of first place in the NFC South. The defense held Carolina to 231 yards and pestered Newton much of the night.

Here are the three things we learned from the game:

1) The Saints' secondary is playing like it's supposed to.

New Orleans' secondary came into 2014 touted as one of the league's best, then promptly gave up nearly 450 passing yards to Matt Ryan in the season opener. But they have slowly been building themselves back up since that point, culminating in a dominant performance against the Panthers. Two weeks ago they shut down Matt Stafford and the Lions (outside of a fluky burst at the end). Last week they forced two Aaron Rodgers interceptions and limited the Packers to 23 points. On Thursday, they held Newton to 151 yards through the air.

The interesting thing is that the secondary's resurgence loosely corresponds with the season-ending injury to high-priced free agent signee Jairus Byrd. Nobody's suggesting this is a better unit without him, but credit backup safety Rafael Bush for doing a solid job filling in.

2) New Orleans' run game quietly made a difference.

The Saints managed just 2.8 yards per carry, but the ground game still played a significant role in the win. It wasn't so much the production of the rushing attack as it was simply the Saints' commitment to it: they ran 37 times on the night.

For starters, it helped to balance the offense and control the pace. The frequent runs opened up the play-action game, which Brees had success with all night. New Orleans ate up over seven minutes of the fourth quarter on a single drive, which ended with Ingram plowing in for his second touchdown of the game. Ingram, who went over 100 yards rushing just once in his first 40 career games, now has reached the century mark in back-to-back games.

But the commitment to the running game also benefited the Saints' defense. Long drives by the offense mean long breaks for the defense, something they don't get when Brees and the passing game are flying downfield. The steady pace also kept the ball away from the Panthers, whose offense had possession for less than 25 minutes.

3) Carolina is somehow still in the playoff race.

The Panthers drop to 3-5-1 and haven't won since Week 5, but thanks to the weakness of the NFC South, they still have a shot at the playoffs. The Saints lead the division but are only 4-4 and face a significantly tougher schedule down the road. New Orleans has a four-game stretch against San Francisco, Cincinnati, Baltimore and Pittsburgh, all of whom are currently above .500. Carolina faces a tough test at Philly next week, but the 4-3 Browns are the only other winning team left on its schedule. On top of that, the Panthers get another chance at the Saints in Week 14 (though they'll have to win that one in the Superdome).

The Panthers don't deserve to be in the playoff hunt right now, but they very much are.