The Carolina Panthers will host the New Orleans Saints in a Week 2 NFC South clash Sunday. The Saints come marching into the Queen City winning nine straight games against NFC South teams. During their last meeting, the Saints demolished the Panthers 33-7 and the Saints are coming off of a similar thrashing of the Packers in Week 1. Here are the three keys to the Panthers coming away victorious.
Executing In The Red Zone
Carolina did a good job offensively. They moved the chains and the ball, but they had nothing to show for it in the red zone. The Panthers failed to convert on 4th and 1 when Sam Darnold threw too wide for fullback Giovanni Ricci to reel the pass in. Another conversion was stuffed at the line of scrimmage. In order for the Panthers to win, they will have to make each trip to the red-zone count. It’s fine to put three on the board, but they have to find their way to touchdowns. Be it through squaring up and running with power for six or implementing play action, it is a must that the Panthers score efficiently.
Split Decision Making from the Pocket
Darnold was patient in the pocket against the Jets Defense in week 1. He took his share of shots from the defense, but held on to find his targets. Against a more aggressive and better Saints defense, Darnold must make quicker decisions. The Saints’ defensive front is strong, physical, and aggressive. They allowed the fifth-fewest passing yards and fourth-fewest rushing yards last season. They were also among the top 10 in the NFL in sacks, while the Panthers’ offensive line is inconsistent in their protection. It will be tough to go deep with Anderson and Moore with such a dynamic plus being aware of a ball-hawking Saints secondary. Conservatively, it might be best for Carolina to take advantage of methodical, quick out’s, checkdowns, and underneath routes.
Defense Must Find Balance
Against the Jets, the Panthers’ defense pressured rookie quarterback Zach Wilson for six sacks and 10 hits. The unit was aggressive, in general, in Week one. However, against Alvin Kamara, the defense has to find a balance between being aggressive and physical without being overaggressive. If the defense sells out on Jameis Winston and applies most of the pressure on him, he’ll methodically pick the defense apart with short passes and checkdowns. Kamara will be hard to stop and contain anyway, so Carolina may have to concede a little.