Saints players and coach Sean Payton all agreed Wednesday that the Panthers (9-3) pose a lot of the same kinds of threats as Seattle on both sides of the ball -- starting with the quarterback position.
Their numbers are almost identical (Newton averages 218 passing yards and 37 rushing yards per game; Wilson 223 and 38).
"If you just write down on paper what it is that they do well, they are very similar," Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "They can extend plays with their legs, they have a big arm and can throw downfield. They run the ball well as a team and they are very patient. That is what we just faced, and that is what we are going to face this week.
"They run the ball all day and then they hit these big, explosive plays down field. Or if something is not there, you have Cam Newton extending the play by getting out of the pocket, running or someone getting open late in the play and he makes the throw."
Obviously the Saints will need to do a much better job than they did against Wilson, who threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another 47 yards in Monday's rout.
But Jenkins said the Saints remain confident in a defense that has played great all year long -- and believes they will learn from their mistakes. Seattle made the Saints pay for devoting too much attention to running back Marshawn Lynch with play-action fakes, and Wilson burned the Saints' blitzes with big throws down the field.
"I think we just had a bad outing and we will learn a lot from this game," Jenkins said. "It wasn't just the mobile quarterback that killed us, it was the big plays down field in the secondary that hurt us. And then when we did get some stops, the quarterback would scramble, get a crucial first down and extend the play and the drive. There were a lot of things that we can learn from and obviously help us out going forward."
Likewise, Saints tight end Benjamin Watson said he sees a lot of similarities between the Panthers' defense and the Seahawks' defense -- the top-two ranked units in the NFL in both points allowed and yards allowed. Carolina ranks first in the NFL in points (13.1 per game) and second in yards (289.8 per game).
"[Carolina's] defense is playing tremendous football right now," said Watson, who agreed that lessons can be learned from the Seattle loss.
"You definitely don't write it off or flush it, because there's things that you can learn from losses like that -- huge losses as well as close losses and huge victories," Watson said. "We're going to learn from it. At the same time, we do have to move on. And that's why whenever we play there's always the mentality that you enjoy the wins for a day or so and you endure the losses for a day or so, because there's another team coming that you have to play."
Payton also pointed out one area where the Seahawks and Panthers are similar – both teams are playing with a lot of "confidence" right now. Carolina has won eight straight games, more than any current streak in the NFL.
"They are the hottest team in the NFL." Payton said. "They are playing with a lot of confidence and playing well on defense and the kicking game and playing outstanding on offense. Coach [Ron] Rivera and his staff do a great job and you can see that confidence show up on tape."
Strief left Monday night’s game early because of the ankle injury and was limping noticeably on his way back to the locker room. But after the game he said he’s optimistic he won’t be out long.
“We’ll see,” Strief said Monday night. “I’m not a guy that has to be 100 percent; I’m a bad enough athlete. I think it scared me a good bit on the field, but it’s not as bad as it could have been.”
Strief will certainly be missed if he can't play Sunday night against the Carolina Panthers. But second-year backup Bryce Harris has gotten a decent amount of experience as a fill-in and extra blocker this season, and should be capable of stepping up to fill the void.
Bunkley and Bush are new to the injury report this week. The severity of their injuries is unknown. Foster and Dawson were held out of Monday’s game with their injuries.
Defensive end Charles Johnson and running back DeAngelo Williams returned to practice Wednesday. Johnson, who has 8.5 sacks, missed the past two games with a strained right knee after being leg-whipped by New England's Marcus Cannon.
Williams, who has 610 yards rushing, missed Sunday's 27-6 victory over Tampa Bay with a quad contusion suffered against Miami.
While coach Ron Rivera said both players will be evaluated on Thursday and possibly Friday before committing them to the lineup for the NFC South showdown in New Orleans, Johnson was emphatic he would play.
"I'm feeling good,'' he said. "Knocked a little rust off, did my thing. We've got a long week of preparation, so I'm going to keep getting better every day so I can go into Sunday full speed.''
But getting Johnson and Williams back in particular is key for a team trying to extend its league-best winning streak to nine games and overtake the Saints (9-3) for the division lead with four regular-season games remaining.
METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints pushed back their usual practice schedule this week, following a Monday night game across the country in Seattle. Coach Sean Payton said that was the Saints' plan all along -- even before a breakdown with the team plane forced them to spend Monday night in Seattle.
The Saints still will have their normal three full days of practice on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. They'll do a little more than usual on Saturday -- which is usually just a walk-through session.
It helps that Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers was flexed into the Sunday night slot on NBC. And Payton said it also helps a little that the Saints are familiar with their division rivals. Although they haven't played the Panthers yet this season, Carolina still has the same coaching staff and general schemes from last year.
Although the unexpected layover in Seattle certainly must have been frustrating -- especially coming off the heels of a 34-7 loss to the Seahawks -- Payton said it didn't require a big adjustment in game-planning for the Panthers.
The Saints wound up getting home around 3:30 p.m. ET Tuesday instead of 6 a.m. In the meantime, thanks to modern technology, coaches and players still had the ability to start looking at film cut-ups of the Panthers on their iPads.
"It really doesn't change," tight end Benjamin Watson said Wednesday. "A lot of what we can do now is digital. So we can watch film on iPads and do what we'd be doing anyway. It's just a wrinkle in the schedule that everybody deals with from time to time."
Payton joked that he'll tell the story of the Monday night scrambling "someday. ... But right now I don't have time to take you through the whole trip."
The Saints will still have their usual three full days of practice on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. They’ll do a little more than usual on Saturday -- which is usually just a walk-through session.
It helps that Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers was flexed into the Sunday night slot on NBC. And Payton said it also helps a little that the Saints are familiar with their division rivals. Although they haven’t played the Panthers yet this year, Carolina still has the same coaching staff and general schemes from last year.
Although the unexpected layover in Seattle certainly must have been frustrating – especially coming off the heels of a 34-7 loss to the Seahawks -- Payton said it didn’t require a big adjustment in game-planning for the Panthers.
The Saints wound up getting home around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday instead of 6 a.m. In the meantime, thanks to modern technology, coaches and players still had the ability to start looking at film cut-ups of the Carolina Panthers on their iPads.
“It really doesn’t change,” tight end Benjamin Watson said Wednesday. “A lot of what we can do now is digital. So we can watch film on iPads and do what we’d be doing anyway. It’s just a wrinkle in the schedule that everybody deals with from time to time.”
Payton joked that he’ll tell the story of the Monday night scrambling “someday. … But right now I don’t have time to take you through the whole trip.”
“It ended up being seamless,” Payton added, crediting the team’s director of operations James Nagaoka and administrative director Jay Romig, among others who “were able to make a couple quick audibles.”
The Saints’ traveling group was divided among two hotels before flying out Tuesday morning.
Obviously that’s a lot to ask for in one week. But the most important part is beating the Panthers (9-3). If the Saints do that, they’ll be a virtual lock for a playoff berth and a heavy favorite to win the NFC South.
If the Saints wind up splitting with the Panthers in Weeks 14 and 16 and both teams finish 12-4, New Orleans will win the tie-breaker (based on a better conference record).
If both teams finish 11-5 or 10-6, the tie-breaker will depend on which teams they lose to. The tie-breaker order is 1. Head-to-head results; 2. Division record; 3. Record vs. common opponents; 4. Conference record; 5. Strength of victory.
To see how things will play out based on various wins and losses, play around with ESPN.com's playoff machine.
The Saints will be looking for their 13th consecutive victory in a home night game when they host the Carolina Panthers in Sunday night’s showcase game on NBC. The Saints have won 12 straight night games at home, including the playoffs - and 15 of their last 16 - by an average margin of nearly 20 points per game.
New Orleans’ last prime-time home game was four weeks ago, when it routed the Dallas Cowboys 49-17. The Saints are 6-0 in all home games this season. And they’ve won 15 straight home games with Sean Payton as their coach, including the playoffs (not counting the games when he was suspended).
Of course, all streaks come to an end sometime. The Saints had won nine straight games on “Monday Night Football” before suffering a 34-7 loss in Seattle on Monday. But based on their track record, this prime-time home winning streak will be harder to break than most.
Here’s the list of the Saints’ last 16 home night games:
Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013 – Saints 49, Cowboys 17
Monday, Sept. 30, 2013 – Saints 38, Dolphins 17
Monday, Nov. 5, 2012 – Saints 28, Eagles 13
Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012 – Saints 31, Chargers 24
Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012 (playoffs) – Saints 45, Lions 28
Monday, Dec. 26, 2011 – Saints 45, Falcons 16
Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011 – Saints 31, Lions 17
Monday, Nov. 28, 2011 – Saints 49, Giants 24
Sunday, Oct. 23, 2011 – Saints 62, Colts 7
Sunday, Oct. 31, 2010 – Saints 20, Steelers 10
Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010 – Saints 14, Vikings 9
Sunday, Jan. 24, 2010 (playoffs) – Saints 31, Vikings 28 (OT)
Saturday, Dec. 19, 2009 – Cowboys 24, Saints 17
Monday, Nov. 30, 2009 – Saints 38, Patriots 17
Monday, Nov. 2, 2009 – Saints 35, Falcons 27
Monday, Nov. 24, 2008 – Saints 51, Packers 29
Speedy recovery? Obviously it’s challenging for NFL teams to bounce back on a short week after playing on the road on “Monday Night Football.” And the last two times the Saints had to deal with such a schedule, they lost the next game (both in 2010: a Monday night win at San Francisco in Week 2 followed by a home loss to Atlanta, then a Monday night win at Atlanta in Week 16 followed by a home loss to Tampa Bay).
But when I asked ESPN Stats & Information and the Elias Sports Bureau to put that challenge in historical context, I was surprised by the results. According to Elias, over the past 20 years, teams actually have a .568 winning percentage in the week after playing on the road on MNF.
(I didn’t ask Elias how many of those games included the team’s plane breaking down and forcing them to fly back home day later – like what happened with the Saints in Seattle on Monday night.)
Worth a click:
- ESPN’s Panthers reporter David Newton had a great breakdown of quarterback Cam Newton’s 56-yard run last week – including how receiver Steve Smith played a key blocking role and how Newton’s scrambling ability could cause headaches for the Saints. ... Find all of your Carolina updates throughout the week here at ESPN’s Panthers team page. And follow David on Twitter @DNewtonESPN.
- It’s always fun to play around with ESPN.com’s Playoff Machine, which gives you the chance to see how the playoff races will play out, depending on your predicted regular-season results.
OFFENSE (60 snaps)
Quarterback – Drew Brees 57, Luke McCown 3
Tight end – Jimmy Graham 53, Benjamin Watson 21, Josh Hill 14
Receiver – Marques Colston 36, Robert Meachem 32, Kenny Stills 31, Lance Moore 28
Running back – Pierre Thomas 28, Darren Sproles 19, Mark Ingram 15
Fullback – Jed Collins 21
Center – Brian de la Puente 60
Offensive tackle – Charles Brown 60, Zach Strief 42, Bryce Harris 20
Guard – Jahri Evans 60, Ben Grubbs 60
Thoughts: Graham’s health clearly isn’t limiting his snap count. He played almost every snap during a grueling Monday night game. … Strief left the game early with a left-ankle injury, and his status is uncertain for Sunday night’s game against the Carolina Panthers. Although Strief has been very good this year, Harris has a decent amount of experience now in two years with the Saints. He isn’t a bad fallback option if needed. … For just the second time this season, Brees didn’t play every snap. Last time, he called it an early night when the Saints blew out the Dallas Cowboys. This was obviously a different scenario.
DEFENSE (71 snaps)
Safety – Malcolm Jenkins 71, Kenny Vaccaro 67, Roman Harper 37, Rafael Bush 10
Cornerback – Corey White 70, Keenan Lewis 63, Chris Carr 10
Inside linebacker – Curtis Lofton 61, David Hawthorne 60, Ramon Humber 16, Will Herring 7
Outside linebacker – Junior Galette 66, Parys Haralson 41
Defensive end – Cameron Jordan 67, Akiem Hicks 48, Tom Johnson 25, Tyrunn Walker 2
Defensive tackle – Brodrick Bunkley 35, John Jenkins 25
Thoughts: The Saints used some of those five-linebacker formations they used against the San Francisco 49ers, and they were successful in stopping running back Marshawn Lynch. But the Seahawks made them pay for crowding the line of scrimmage, using play-action fakes and blitz-busting throws. … I didn’t realize Lewis had missed eight snaps during the game. Not sure if he’s dealing with an injury. We’ll get our firs practice report on Wednesday, but a lot of guys might be limited in this short week.
Preseason: 14 | Last Week: 2 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002
The Saints (9-3) fell three spots after their ugly 34-7 loss in Seattle on Monday night. But a closer look at the voting breakdown shows they're in a virtual three-way tie for third place with fellow 9-3 teams Carolina and New England.
Voters couldn't agree on what to make of the Saints after their stunningly poor showing. Three of the six panelists kept the Saints at No. 3. But they also received votes at No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6. The Saints will get a chance to clear up the confusion when they host the Panthers on Sunday night inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Was the loss to the Seahawks just one bad night under an avalanche of difficult circumstances? Or a sign that the Saints could have trouble with a Carolina team that exudes many of the same qualities (stifling defense, physical run game, mobile dual-threat quarterback)?
The Saints will have the benefit of home-field advantage; they've been dominant at home in night games over the years. But they'll be handicapped by a short week of rest after a cross-country trip. So the intangibles are a wash. It's up to the Saints to determine their own fate on the field.
Here's a look at where the Saints (9-3) and this week's opponent, the Carolina Panthers (9-3), now rank in those and other key statistical categories:
Total yards: Sixth (396.1 per game)
Passing yards: Third (302.8 per game)
Rushing yards: 23rd (93.3 per game)
Third-down conversions: Fifth (44.8 percent)
Red-zone touchdowns: 16th (53.7 percent)
Turnovers (giveaways): Tied for fourth-fewest (14)
Sacks allowed: Fifth-fewest (24)
Total yards: Eighth (319.8 per game)
Passing yards: Fourth (206.7 per game)
Rushing yards: 16th (113.2 per game)
Third-down conversions: Eighth (35.8 percent)
Red-zone touchdowns: 24th (59.5 percent)
Turnovers (takeaways): Tied for 20th (17)
Sacks: Tied for third (38)
Points scored: Seventh (26.0 per game)
Points allowed: Sixth (19.2 per game)
Turnover ratio: 12th (plus-3)
Time of possession: Second (32:30 per game)
QB Drew Brees: 316.2 yards per game (third), 29 touchdowns (second), 104.9 passer rating (fifth), 69.3 Total QBR (sixth)
TE Jimmy Graham: 12 total TDs (tied for first), 12 receiving TDs (tied for first), 68 catches (tied for 10th), 988 receiving yards (10th)
P Thomas Morstead: net average 43.0 yards per punt (second)
Total yards: 24th (327.8 per game)
Passing yards: 27th (198.4 per game)
Rushing yards: 9th (129.3 per game)
Turnovers (giveaways): Tied for ninth-fewest (16)
Sacks allowed: Tied for 14th-fewest (31)
Total yards: Second (289.8 per game)
Passing yards: Sixth (209.6 per game)
Rushing yards: Second (80.3 per game)
Turnovers (takeaways): Tied for second (26)
Sacks: Second (39)
Points scored: Tied for 14th (23.8 per game)
Points allowed: First (13.1 per game)
Dome or doomed? Even after one of their ugliest losses of the Sean Payton-Drew Brees era, Brees steadfastly denied that the Saints struggle outside of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. He again pointed out that they have the best road record in the NFL since 2009 and said, "If you just look at that, nobody's really done their research obviously." However, Brees didn't try to deny what had just played out on the field in Seattle.
The truth lies somewhere in the middle. The Saints (9-3) aren't automatically doomed outside of the Superdome. They're just a lot more human. And that doesn't play well in matchups against teams like Seattle. The Saints only turned the ball over once (a costly fumble when Brees was sacked in the first quarter). But Seattle's defense was stifling, holding New Orleans to 188 yards (the Saints' lowest total since 2001). Whether it's the location or the opponent, the Saints will have to figure out how to deal with both if they want to get past the NFC Championship Game, because it will almost certainly be played in Seattle. But first they have to get past the Carolina Panthers in the NFC South.
Nowhere to throw: Brees threw for only 147 yards -- his lowest total since 2006. His streak of 43 consecutive games with 200 passing yards ended -- two shy of the NFL record held by Hall of Famer Dan Fouts. Brees was under duress a few times (such as when end Cliff Avril caught him from behind on the forced fumble). But mostly the Seahawks were blanketing all of his targets. Richard Sherman broke up two deep pass attempts. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Brees was 0-for-8 on throws 15 yards or more down the field.
Defenses that can get physical on the Saints' receivers and tight end Jimmy Graham have always caused the Saints the most problems. The Panthers might be able to do the same -- but the Saints will test them right back, especially in the Superdome.
Sleight of hand -- or feet: The Saints defense sold out to stop running back Marshawn Lynch -- and the Seahawks made them pay for it. While they held Lynch to 45 yards on 16 carries, everyone else seemed to burn them. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 47 yards on eight carries. The Saints bit on play-action too often and got burned when they blitzed -- one time with their five-linebacker alignment. It wouldn't be a huge concern, because Seattle is built differently than most teams and simply won the chess match this time. But Carolina is built almost exactly the same way -- so the Saints need to be a lot more disciplined against the Panthers and quarterback Cam Newton.
Strief optimistic: Saints right tackle Zach Strief left Monday night's game with a left ankle injury, but said afterward that he's optimistic he can return sooner than later. "We'll see," Strief said. "I'm not a guy that has to be 100 percent; I'm a bad enough athlete. I think it scared me a good bit on the field, but it's not as bad as it could have been. So we'll see how it goes [Tuesday]."
SEATTLE -- Everything about the New Orleans Saints' performance in Sunday night's 34-7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks was stunning.
Except for the way they reacted afterward.
No, the Saints (9-3) didn't even pretend to put a positive spin on the dreadful performance that started ugly and stayed ugly.
“The fact of the matter is, we took one on the chin today. I mean, we're used to being on the other end of these types of games,” said Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who then confirmed the obvious for anyone who might have missed the definitive statement that was made on Monday night.
“As of now, the road to the Super Bowl looks like it's gonna travel through here.”
But to a man, everyone in the Saints' locker room scoffed at the notion that their confidence could be dented by coming up so small in such a big game.
“Hell no. No, not us,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “We ain't built like that. We're not soft in our core. We'll take our whupping like men. And we'll go back to work tomorrow.”
And they'll have to. Because the Saints don't have any time to lick their wounds with another critical battle for NFC supremacy coming up quickly -- a Sunday night date with the Carolina Panthers (9-3) in New Orleans.
The Saints will play Carolina twice in the next three weeks, with the NFC South title and the NFC's No. 2 seed up for grabs. The Panthers are the NFL's hottest team, winners of eight straight, and they present many of the same challenges as the team that just got done putting that whupping on the Saints (a stifling defense, a physical run game and a mobile dual-threat quarterback).
And to add one more degree of difficulty to that looming matchup, the Saints' short week got even shorter when a breakdown with their team plane forced them to spend Monday night in Seattle.
But the Saints' response to everything that happened on Monday night was essentially: challenge accepted.
“I'm going to sleep well knowing we've got everything in front of us,” Jenkins explained. Before he knew about the issues with the plane, anyway. “It's tough as a man to lose. We're all competitors, and to lose in this fashion is definitely disappointing. But I don't think anybody is going to lose confidence or doubt this team and what we can do.”
The way the Saints lost Monday is what was so shocking.
They managed only 188 total yards -- the lowest of the Drew Brees-Sean Payton era. Brees' 147 passing yards marked his lowest total since 2006.
The Saints did have one incredibly costly turnover in the first quarter, when Brees fumbled during a sack by end Cliff Avril and fellow end Michael Bennett returned it 22 yards for a touchdown. But that was the game's only turnover.
The rest of the game was just filled with a never-ending series of Seattle's defense shutting down New Orleans' offense -- then the Saints' defense being unable to stop the Seahawks.
When asked when the last time was that he remembered a loss so lopsided, Saints right tackle Zach Strief said, “Never."
Strief, who arrived in 2006, said even in the their biggest blowout loss of the era (a 41-10 defeat at Indianapolis in 2007), the Saints at least moved the ball early.
“I don't think I've played in a game like this since I've been here,” said Strief, who left early with a left ankle injury but is optimistic about his chances of recovery. “That's disappointing, especially in a big game and big stage like this, a situation that we're usually pretty good. And I really felt like we were ready to play this game. And yet, you have that performance and you don't like to see that, don't like to put that on tape.”
What went wrong? You name it.
Four of the Saints' first five drives resulted in three-and-outs, including the turnover. When they took shots deep down the field, Seattle's defensive backs broke up passes. When they tried to run, Seattle's defense swallowed them up. When they finally got some momentum going, they shot themselves in the foot with penalties.
As for the defense, it accomplished its No. 1 goal -- corralling running back Marshawn Lynch, who gained just 45 yards on 16 carries. But the Saints didn't stop anyone else.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson ran for 47 yards on eight carries, converting three first downs with his feet in the first half. And Wilson torched them with his arm, too, throwing for 310 yards and three touchdowns. He repeatedly burned the Saints when they tried to blitz or got overaggressive while biting on play-action fakes.
He completed a 60-yard pass to wide-open tight end Zach Miller, a 52-yarder to receiver Doug Baldwin behind Jenkins on a seven-man blitz and a 33-yard strike to receiver Ricardo Lockette behind trusty cornerback Keenan Lewis.
Wilson even accidentally completed an 8-yard touchdown pass to fullback Derrick Coleman after it was tipped by tight end Kellen Davis.
“This is a tough atmosphere to come in and play. But obviously we're a much better team than what we put on the field tonight,” Brees said. “We know Seattle's a great team. And we know it's a team we've got to deal with in the future. And we've gotta find a way to play better against these guys when that time comes.”
Brees and Payton both insisted that the crowd noise and weather conditions were challenges -- but not the reasons why they lost. The Saints said they were prepared for both, and they didn't use either as an excuse.
Saints fullback Jed Collins said Payton's message to the team after the game was that he “wants us to remember the sting.”
“The message is we hope to get another shot at these guys,” Collins said. “But tonight they were the better team.”
Payton made similar comments to the media after the lopsided affair.
“We got beat. We got beat good tonight. So it's tough,” the Saints' coach said. “We can't just say it didn't happen. But that being said, we have to quickly get focused on Carolina. They're playing as good of football as anyone in the league right now. So we'll do that.”
SEATTLE -- As if the night couldn't get any worse for the New Orleans Saints after their 34-7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, they wound up having to spend the night in Seattle because of a problem with the team plane.
The Saints (9-3) didn't get back to New Orleans until after 3 p.m. local time on Tuesday, nearly 12 hours after they had planned to return.
Players were sent home to get some rest and an afternoon of film study and conditioning at club headquarters was essentially wiped out. The delay makes a short week even shorter as the Saints prepare for a critical Week 14 home date with the NFC South rival Carolina Panthers (9-3).
The Saints will look to bounce back from Monday's poor performance in which quarterback Drew Brees' streak of throwing for more than 200 yards ended at 43 games.
"We took one in the chin today," Brees said after Monday night's loss. "We got outplayed today. They played great. They made a lot of plays, and we didn't."
New Orleans' nightmare wasn't limited to the offensive side of the ball, as the team's improved defense was torched for 429 yards of total offense -- 310 of which came via the arm of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
"Lot of things to look at," Saints coach Sean Payton said after the game. "Lot of things we didn't do well."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.