One interesting aspect of the New Orleans Saints' game this coming Monday Night in Charlotte, North Carolina against their divisional rivals the Carolina Panthers, is that the Panthers coaching staff is hoping to follow the so-called "blueprint" that exists on how to beat the Saints and specifically future Hall-of-Famer and 18th year veteran QB Drew Brees.
“There is a blueprint,” Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said to reporters after the team's practice session on Wednesday. “Dallas showed it. Tampa Bay showed it. The Rams in the second half showed it. But it’s not anything that people don’t know.”
For as much as Saints fans hate to hear about this so-called "blueprint" as it were, the fact is that when an opposing defensive line has been able to successfully generate a lot interior pressure "straight up the gut", Brees and the Saints offense tend to struggle at moving the ball with any type of effectiveness.
All three of those teams — the Rams, Cowboys, and for one half of a game the Bucs — were able to consistently get good pressure right in Brees' face; which in turn allowed all of those very same defenses to limit the Saints offense's capability for making explosive plays.
But only the Cowboys were able to come away a "W", and as we saw for ourselves in the 2nd half last Sunday; that when Brees and the offense are successfully able to adjust to either limiting or outright stopping that interior pressure, the offense is able to get rolling again.
It goes without saying that the Saints offense has been playing most of this entire year at a very high level; and the fact that New Orleans has already reached the 40-point plateau more times (six) this season than any team in the entire 99-year history of the NFL ever has, bears that out.
So if Rivera and the Panthers hope to avoid becoming the next unwitting victim of the Black and Gold's prowess on the offensive side of the ball, then they could start by playing better defense — and especially against the pass,
Perhaps the one statistic that Rivera and his defensive unit need to keep in mind heading into Monday Night's nationally-televised contest would be that since the start of 2017, Brees is 9-2 against teams entering the game with a pass defense ranked 20th-or-worse — and the Panthers are 20th, allowing 254.8 passing yards per game.
That doesn't bode well for the Panthers' plans at using the so-called "blueprint".
In fact if they aren't careful, that "blueprint"might even get ripped to pieces.
Carolina's biggest problem during their current 5-game losing streak has been their ability to defend the pass, especially since they've been giving up at least one "big play" by opponents late in games
“That’s really kind of the crux of the last few games,” Rivera said. “Defensively, I like the personnel we have. We just can’t give up big plays, explosive plays.”
As noted by Charlotte Observer beat writer Jourdan Rodrigue: explosive plays over the top hurt Carolina big-time in their loss last week at Cleveland.
Browns rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield’s first pass of the game was a 66-yard bomb to WR Breshad Perriman, who had Panthers rookie cornerback and former LSU star Donte Jackson beaten badly on the play.
Mayfield also was able to convert two third-and-long plays, one for a 51-yard touchdown. and just missed out on yet another long TD pass but Jackson prevented it by punching the ball out of Perriman's hands;
“It’s just one or two plays,” Jackson said. “We’re not losing games big; we’re losing by one or two possessions, and we understand that. That’s why we’re sticking together.”
They won't have an choice but to stick together assuming that Brees and the Saints offense are able to successfully follow up that impressive 2nd half performance against the Buccaneers. against the Panthers on Monday Night.
New Orleans leads the NFC in red zone efficiency and additionally ranks in the top six in the NFL in third-down efficiency, fourth-down efficiency, sacks allowed per pass play and interception percentage.
And while it's certainly been true that the Saints offense hasn't looked like themselves at times and have had some pretty anxious moments in these past few games, there's nothing about last week's 2nd half performance which would suggest that they aren't fully capable of "flipping the switch on" so to speak, when they have to.
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Nevertheless, it isn't going to stop the Panthers from trying to prevent it from happening.
“It’s very challenging, but I like this group we have on defense. I think we’re going to respond,” said Panthers CB Captain Munnerlyn. “The whole world is going to be watching – it’s Monday Night Football – so we’ve got to put up or shut up.”
Carolina will need to definitely put up against a Saints team that's won 11 of their last 12 games, clinched a 2nd consecutive NFC South Division Championship, and is currently the #1 seeded team in the NFC for next month's upcoming NFL Playoffs.
And you can believe this much, which is that the Saints are more than aware what's still at stake in these final 3 games.
The Saints' presumed easiest path to getting to the Super Bowl is by earning home-field advantage throughout the entire Playoffs, just as they did the year when they won the franchises's one and only World Championship after the 2009 season.
That means NEVER having to leave NOLA or the comfy, cozy confines of a rabid Superdome of 70,000 plus screaming Who Dats hell-bent on making life miserable for visiting opponents, when the Playoffs arrive.
So make no mistake about it: the Saints will be definitely looking to avoid any further problems on the offensive side of things, and will be squarely focused on doing all the things necessary for that to happen.
From the Panthers' perspective however, pulling off a mild upset will likely be dependent upon utilizing that "blueprint" referenced by Rivera; the same blueprint that every other Saints opponent will be seeking to use against them now, from here on out.
But that requires having a defense that's capable of accomplishing that task.
And based solely off of their most recent performance, Rivera and the Panthers defense's plan on paper to stop Brees and the Saints offense, might just get end up getting ripped to pieces....