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Week 13 Game Recap: Carolina Panthers 41, New Orleans Saints 38


What you need to know

Carolina Panthers

Ted Ginn had two forgettable drops that could have resulted in touchdowns. The receiver hauled in two touchdown catches and consistently beat cornerback Brandon Browner, drawing penalties for defensive holding.

The Panthers leaned on Jonathan Stewart in the red zone, but despite succeeding in moving the ball with him between the twenties, they could not penetrate a stubborn Saints front in the money area. However, the emphasis on getting him the ball was there.

Greg Olsen continues to be Cam Newton's most trusted target in clutch situations. A terrific fourth down catch kept this game alive for Carolina in the late stages, and Olsen consistently found room to roam against an overmatched Saints back seven.

Cam Newton looked to have sustained a couple of injuries (ankle, head) but did not allow them to deter him. Despite the usual issues with accuracy that has become a staple of his game, he fought and continued to fire bullets, reading the field well.

Devin Funchess caught a touchdown pass on a quick slant in the red zone, but it was the impressive release at the line of scrimmage that is worth pointing out. He absolutely left the cornerback for dead with his quickness, a good sign moving forward for the improving rookie.

New Orleans Saints

The Saints offense took advantage of some poor Panthers defense, but they have to be credited for executing some well-designed plays that allowed their playmakers to get into space. This performance bodes well for the fantasy playoffs.

Brandin Cooks was kept away from Josh Norman for the majority of the game as the Saints motioned him all over the formation and used him in the slot. His touchdown came on a busted coverage by Carolina and he also drew a 37-yard pass interference penalty.

Mark Ingram showed his guile and patience as a runner even though rushing yards were tough to come by in an air show by both teams.

Drew Brees' mastery of this offense is quite something to watch; he consistently checked into the best plays and used his eyes to fool defenders, particularly on his touchdown pass to Brandon Coleman.

The Saints defense continues to struggle and showed once again what a poor, undisciplined unit they are. Penalties hurt them and they made several mistakes in coverage. If the pattern continues, expect to see many more game scripts like this one.

Carolina Panthers

QB Cam Newton, 81 offensive snaps, Pass: 28 - 41 - 331 - 5 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 10 - 49 - 0
Cam Newton had to show a lot of guts and character to will his team to a victory against a Saints team that would not go away. It took five touchdown passes from the MVP candidate, who fought on despite sustaining what looked like a couple of bad injuries. On one play, he was bent back awkwardly and looked to have twisted his ankle; it seemed not to bother him the rest of the game. On another - what looked like a routine touchdown run - he was surprised to be hit on the top of the helmet by a Saints defender. Afforded good pass protection all day, Newton's day started off poorly with a bad decision to throw a pass to Ted Ginn in tight coverage. The cornerback had excellent position and the pass was simply not on; it was a simple play for the defender to make. The play seemed to affect him, as he missed Greg Olsen and Ginn on deep shots that looked like easy completions. A 30-yard run on a naked bootleg on fourth-and-short seemed to restore his confidence, as he quickly followed it up with a touchdown toss to Mike Tolbert in the flat. The Saints sent an all-out blitz, but Newton kept his cool and took the easy completion for the score. Newton showed excellent pocket presence against a heavy rush to step away and find tight end Ed Dickson down the sideline. On several occasions Newton's receivers let him down, most notably on a deep shot to Ginn, who simply dropped the ball. However, the speedster made up for his error with a pair of touchdown grabs. The first came on a go route in the red zone. The Saints blew a coverage assignment and let Ginn run free, allowing Newton to fizz a pass into him. The second came on a deep crossing pattern. Once again, the Saints coverage left a lot to be desired, but Newton's pass was such that only Ginn could have made the play. Newton continued to fight and notched a touchdown pass on a nicely lofted option pitch to Jonathan Stewart. After faking an inside give to Tolbert, Newton moved out left. The Saints defenders honed in on the quarterback, so it was a simple toss out to his back for the score. Newton's fourth touchdown pass went to rookie Devin Funchess, who got an excellent release and ran a quick slant; the pass was fired in with venom into a tiny window. Newton will have been disappointed with his continued spotty accuracy as he missed a simple would-be touchdown pass on a post route to Corey Brown. Shaking off the cobwebs, Newton led a terrific go-ahead touchdown drive, capped by a strike in the back of the end zone to Jerricho Cotchery. It was an excellent read by Newton, who had to go through his progressions before finding his old reliable. The final drive included another game-saving play from Newton, who had to escape pressure and roll left to find Greg Olsen on fourth down to keep the game alive. It was an imperfect day from Newton as a passer, but ultimately his play was the difference.

RB Jonathan Stewart, 63 offensive snaps, Rush: 21 - 82 - 1, Rec: 3 - 31 - 0 (3 targets)
In a typically no-nonsense outing, Jonathan Stewart managed to keep the Panthers offense on schedule despite some early hiccups. That error came in the form of a fumble which was recovered by the Saints and returned for a touchdown. It appeared to be a normal Stewart run, but before he could get down to the ground the ball was knocked out from under his arm. With every player stopping, Stephone Anthony picked the ball up and went straight to the end zone. The mistake - and the physicality being shown by a fired-up Saints front seven - seemed to energize Stewart, who only grew stronger as the game went on. He consistently broke tackles and showed terrific Matrix-esque moves on a couple of dump-off passes into the flat. Thriving behind a good offensive line performance, Stewart showed his patience and speed on several touches, often making something out of nothing. He capped off his day with a touchdown on a clever option pitch from Cam Newton, adjusting well to the lofted ball. Stewart had more red zone opportunities, but a stout Saints defense seemed intent on taking away the Panthers' rushing attack inside the 20.

RB Mike Tolbert, 31 offensive snaps, Rush: 2 - 33 - 0, Rec: 2 - 18 - 1 (3 targets)
A bigger factor than would normally be the case, Mike Tolbert found success against a Saints defense high on effort but short on execution. The hulking back caught a short touchdown pass against a Saints jailbreak blitz, sneaking into the left flat and catching a quick Cam Newton flip pass for the easy walk-in score. Later, he broke off a bruising 20+ yard carry, showing good patience behind his blockers and bursting into the secondary.

RB Fozzy Whittaker, 4 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 11 - 0
Fozzy Whittaker showed off his trademark speed on a quick toss right, but did not make any more contributions as the Panthers leaned heavily on Jonathan Stewart.

WR Ted Ginn, 53 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 80 - 2 (10 targets)
The much-maligned Ted Ginn Jr's hands could have made him the goat of this game had the Panthers not pulled out a victory. The speedster consistently took the top off the defense, giving Brandon Browner headaches all afternoon with his quick breaks and ability to stretch the field. The day started off poorly, with a target towards Ginn resulting in an interception. The cornerback on the play, Delvin Breaux, had excellent tight coverage and the pass was simply not on, but Ginn failed to get separation. Ginn and his quarterback had difficulty connecting early, with overthrows and drops the main culprit. Ginn hauled in his first of two touchdown receptions on a go route in the red zone, with the Saints dropping a coverage to make it an easy pitch and catch. His second touchdown came on a deep crossing pattern; at the release, he blew past the cornerback and presented a huge window for Cam Newton to throw into. Despite his pair of scores, he could have had another but for a horrendous drop. Newton laid the football out perfectly in front of him, only for Ginn to let the ball volley off his hands a couple of times before it fell harmlessly to the turf. A subsequent deep target could have also resulted in a touchdown; the ball hit Ginn's hands, but admittedly it would have been a tougher catch to make.

WR Jerricho Cotchery, 27 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 26 - 1 (3 targets)
In the clutch moments of the game, Cam Newton looked to his reliable pair of hands in Jerricho Cotchery. The veteran produced a tough run-after-catch play in the red zone to set up his subsequent touchdown grab for the go-ahead score. He ran an excellent route on the play, committing the defensive back outside with a nod to the corner before bringing it back to the post. The pass was perfect and allowed Cotchery to attack it, secure it and go down.

WR Devin Funchess, 26 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 13 - 1 (3 targets)
The rookie had little impact overall on the game as the passing attack was generally focused elsewhere against a porous Saints defense. As has become his custom, Devin Funchess dropped a simple pass after running a hitch route, the ball caroming off his breastplate. Funchess redeemed himself with a terrific seal block on a toss, wiping out a defender. Later, he and Cam Newton connected on a beautiful touchdown pass, ripped into a tiny window in the red zone on a quick slant. Funchess' excellent release set up the bullet throw as he bamboozled Saints cornerback Brandon Browner.

TE Greg Olsen, 81 offensive snaps, Rec: 9 - 129 - 0 (12 targets)
Choosing to eschew the strategy employed by many defenses, the Saints opted not to closely mark the Panthers' most dangerous weapon in the passing attack. Olsen was given free releases time and again, allowing him to find the soft spots in the coverage and present a big target for Cam Newton. Olsen got into a rhythm early with a couple of quick connections with his quarterback on simple, timing throws. After getting open on the sideline, however, Newton left the ball too high for Olsen to both secure the catch and get his feet in bounds. An uncharacteristic fumble from Olsen on a routine sideline grab - a ball expertly popped out by a lurking Saints defender - resulted in a turnover. Undeterred, Olsen soldiered on and became a huge factor in the latter stages. First, he reeled in a beautiful lofted pass from Newton on a corner route, tapping both feet in what many considered a questionable play. Upon replay review it was determined the catch was a good one. Olsen ripped the seam in the fourth quarter and hauled in a 32-yard bullet from Newton, boxing out the linebacker in Tampa-2 pipe' coverage. Olsen produced a magnificent grab on fourth down to keep the game alive for the Panthers on their final drive, reaching low and cradling the football before it hit the artificial turf.


New Orleans Saints

QB Drew Brees, 61 offensive snaps, Pass: 24 - 42 - 282 - 3 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 1 - 12 - 0
Drew Brees produced a masterful performance against a stingy Panthers defense, relying on his intelligence and a number of very creative plays to get the job done. The Saints went up-tempo early, trying to get the Panthers thinking rather than playing. They had a lot of success early as Brees fired off quick passes and leaned on the ground game. At the line of scrimmage, he was a master, drawing two offsides penalties and consistently changing the play into a favourable one. He coped well with pressure, although the offensive line afforded him excellent protection throughout. Only when the Panthers sent extra rushers did they manage to get home. The veteran's first touchdown pass of the day came on a seam pass to Benjamin Watson. The Panthers appeared to drop a coverage, allowing Watson to streak untouched into open space in the end zone for Brees to find him. After the hot start, Brees was nearly intercepted on a quick slant to Brandon Coleman, with the cornerback jumping in front. However, he was unable to make the play. The Saints heated up as the game went on and continued to throw looks at the Panthers that made them uncomfortable. Yet another well-crafted play led to a 54-yard touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks. Motioning to the right from a bunch set, Cooks ran a deep post and seemed to confuse the Panthers' safeties, who allowed him to roam free. It was a straightforward pass for Brees off play action, but he had to avoid a rusher to step up and fire it downfield. Brees' third touchdown toss came on a nicely lofted pass to Coleman, but it was the quarterback's eyes at the line of scrimmage that fooled the would-be coverage player. Brees pumped to the flat receiver to hold the cornerback, before firing to Coleman on a go route down the sideline. A late interception was the only black spot in an otherwise clean and efficient game; Brees, under pressure, appeared to throw the pass blind, allowing the free safety to come over the top and pick it off.

RB Mark Ingram, 52 offensive snaps, Rush: 12 - 56 - 1, Rec: 4 - 23 - 0 (6 targets)
Despite not getting quite the workload he could have thrived on, Mark Ingram showed good vision and patience to find the holes in the Panthers defense. Getting good blocking up front for the most part, Ingram showed a beautifully subtle cut on an early 14-yard carry. He often encountered resistance at the line of scrimmage, but continued to battle away. The ball was knocked out his grasp on one carry, but the Saints managed to recover it. Ingram was involved in the passing attack as well, reeling in a couple of short dump-offs from Brees. Ingram showed his guile as a runner on his touchdown run, making two tacklers miss with shifty moves. He also punched in a two-point conversion, getting behind left guard and powering forward for the extras.

RB C.J. Spiller, 5 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 0 - 0 (2 targets)
Mainly sidelined in favor of Mark Ingram, C.J. Spiller was targeted once in the flat, only for the pass to be incomplete and off target. The Saints tried to get the ball in his hands on a tunnel screen; they did, but it was instantly snuffed out with an excellent tackle.

WR Brandin Cooks, 56 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 104 - 1 (10 targets)
The quick-as-a-cat receiver showed his worth with a strong display against the Panthers. The Saints smartly deployed him in the slot for the most part, where he could avoid facing stud cornerback Josh Norman and exploit better matchups. He did this with some authority, getting in a rhythm early with a smoke screen catch and a shallow crosser. Cooks hauled in a beautiful touchdown pass from his quarterback on a well-crafted play. Motioning to the right of the formation from a bunch set, Cooks ran a deep post pattern that seemed to confuse the Panthers' coverage. Cooks was allowed to run free down the seam, and Brees duly found him for the score. Later, the speedster drew a 37-yard pass interference penalty on yet another deep shot. Cooks and Brees showed what terrific chemistry they had with plenty of short, timing completions.

WR Brandon Coleman, 45 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 73 - 1 (7 targets)
Growing as a threat in this passing attack, Brandon Coleman made a nice contribution in a losing effort for the Saints. He made a terrific adjustment to a high and wide pass from Drew Brees early on, snagging it in the left flat, making a tackler miss and taking it up the field for 31 yards. It was a shifty move and a smart play that ignited the offense. Brees was unable to connect with Coleman on a subsequent deep target, the ball just too far in front for him to reel in. His quarterback continued to go back his direction, however, and he was rewarded with a well-designed touchdown. Coleman ran a deep pattern and Brees, fooling cornerback Josh Norman with a pump fake to a swing route, saw that his receiver was wide open. It was a straightforward catch for Coleman, but the design fooled the Panthers.

WR Marques Colston, 57 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 14 - 0 (3 targets)
The crafty veteran had an early drop on a shallow crossing route but came up with a pretty catch over his shoulder to redeem himself. Lined up in the slot, Colston ran towards the left sideline for a short fade pattern; Brees lofted the pass up above the rim and allowed his receiver to make a play on it, which he did.

TE Ben Watson, 54 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 38 - 1 (8 targets)
Without doing anything spectacular, Benjamin Watson provided a nice target for Drew Brees throughout. A 16-yard catch on a shallow crossing route was nullified by a holding penalty, but Watson was able to get into the end zone on a well-designed play. Lined up in a bunch formation, he was able to run free into the end zone after the other two receivers confused the free safety with their route combination. The Panthers appeared to bust the coverage, allowing Watson to catch an easy pass from Brees.