5 takeaways from the New Orleans Saints' Week 7 win over the Carolina Panthers | NFL 2020
In an NFC South scrap that was closer than expected, the New Orleans Saints beat the Carolina Panthers 27-24 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
A short-handed Saints' offense came up trumps, as quarterback Drew Brees completed 29 of 36 pass attempts for 287 yards and two touchdowns despite playing without star receiver Michael Thomas (hamstring, ankle) and receiver Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19).
The underdog Panthers kept the game entertaining thanks to receiver D.J. Moore (two touchdowns) and QB Teddy Bridgewater.
Carolina had a chance to take the game into overtime, but Joey Slye's 65-yard field goal attempt -- which would have been an NFL record -- came up short on their final possession.
5. When healthy, the Saints' offensive line is a problem for opponents
I could've just written about Alvin Kamara and how he's the best running back in the league right now, but I wanted instead to give some credit to the big guys up front for the Saints who create the holes for Kamara.
When they're all healthy and on the field together, the O-line of Erik McCoy, Andrus Peat, Cesar Ruiz, Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramcyzk is a real force and proved as much during Sunday's clash. They were big, strong, and well-trained, giving Brees the time he needed to throw the football and using several interesting blocking schemes to create space for the running backs. The Saints' line was, collectively, a big reason for the victory.
If they can keep up Sunday's level of performance, I'd expect to see more than a couple of them named to the NFC Pro Bowl team.
4. The Saints' wide receiver depth chart is deeper than we thought
Message boards were alive with despairing howls from Saints fans during the build up to this game. "How are we gonna win this match with no receivers?" was the general theme of the discontent.
The absence of Thomas and Sanders was good reason to worry, but New Orleans' lesser-known receivers stepped up on Sunday.
Deonte Harris, who prior to this game had made his biggest mark as a kick returner, came up big in clutch moments as a pass-catcher against the Panthers. He had four receptions for 46 yards and a touchdown.
Undrafted rookie free agent Marquez Callaway had a career day. The former Tennesse standout finished with 75 yards on eight catches, averaging 9.4 yards per reception.
I can't compliment the young receivers without mentioning Drew Brees' performance. He put the ball on a dime for them all night, and all this bodes well for the Saints as we move into the business end of the season. When Emmanuel Sanders and Michael Thomas get back into the offensive fold, it'll be worrying times for opposing defenses.
3. Don't sleep on the Panthers
The Panthers didn't do anything to shame themselves at the Superdome on Sunday. I actually thought they played quite well.
Teddy Bridgewater rebounded from a tough outing during a Week 6 loss to the Bears. He was brave in the pocket against the Saints and finished 23 of 28 for 254 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He looks every bit the starting quarterback that first-year Panthers coach Matt Rhule hoped for when he brought Bridgewater to Carolina from New Orleans during the offseason.
DJ Moore, Robby Anderson and Curtis Samuel have all the makings of a tier-one receiving corps. Running back Mike Davis was shut down by the Saints (12 yards on 7 carries) but he'd been good prior to Sunday while filling in for injured star running back Christian McCaffrey.
Despite the loss, this is a Panthers squad still capable of making the playoffs. They certainly won't be an easy out for any team; especially when McCaffrey gets back to work.
2. Don't sleep on Latavius Murray either
I'll keep this one short and simply paraphrase one of the TV announcers, who said something along these lines about Saints running back Latavius Murray:
"A buddy will turn to you at the end of the game and say, 'Hey, was Latavius playing tonight?' and you're like, 'Yeah, the guy got 80 yards and a touchdown! Didn't you see!?'"
Murray's all-action, aggressive running between the lines is the perfect foil for Kamara on this Saints' offense, but he often goes unheralded. Murray is more than just Kamara's sidekick.
Murray continues to eke out decent numbers on the ground from limited carries. On Sunday he had 47 yards on 11 carries (4.3 yards per carry) and provided a powerful change of pace from Kamara (83 yards on 14 carries). Murray wears out defenses and is responsible with the ball (no fumbles in his Saints' career). He deserves mention as one of the better RB2's in the league.
1. Brian Burns should be in the Pro Bowl conversation
The Panthers might not have had a lot of luck on defense against the Saints, but one player who really impressed was Carolina edge rusher Brian Burns.
His big sack and strip-fumble of Brees in the second quarter was certainly the highlight, but Burns' name was repeatedly mentioned on the broadcast as he finished up with seven tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and one tackle for a loss.
He might not be operating on one of the league's best defenses, but Burns is a name that deserves to be in the Pro Bowl conversation as we approach the midway point of the season.