Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera stressed the fact that his team needed to put forth a better effort in week two and he got one on Sunday. Carolina played with poise despite untimely set-backs, digging in to beat the New Orleans Saints, 35-27, sending their NFC South adversary packing down 0-2 on the young season.
The Panthers got punched in the face early by the Saints; allowing New Orleans to convert on three third downs during their opening drive, eventually capping it off with an easy touchdown pass from Drew Brees to tight end Jimmy Graham. Carolina responded with a couple of discouraging drives before Panthers safety Charles Godfrey intercepted Brees, returning it for a nine yard touchdown, setting the tone for Carolina the rest of the afternoon.
The Panthers did something they have not done in quite sometime. They ran the ball effectively on 41 attempts for 219 yards and finally put some pressure on the quarterback. Carolina registered one sack on Brees, but forced a hand-full of hurries that resulted in throw-away passes and poor decisions on the part of Brees.
On offense, outside of running the football, quarterback Cam Newton relied heavily on receivers Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell. Smith and LaFell combined for nine receptions for 194 yards; Smith leading the duo with 104 of those yards.
The “keep pounding” mentality of Carolina’s offense and defense came alive in week two; ultimately confusing the Saints, simply because they haven’t seen the Panthers play with such attitude in some time.
Now, the Panthers can look back on this week feeling a little more comfortable with what they have in terms of enthused players and coaches.
In what was one of the best performances by the Panthers on both sides of the football in a long time, the Panthers can’t sit on this victory for too long. They play host to the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football in week three.