By Jay Westmoreland
Here we are, a day removed from a huge division win for our Carolina Panthers over the New Orleans Saints. The Panthers looked great in all facets of this game. Offense and defense both stepped up making big plays. The defense did allow the Saints to quite easily march 80 yards down the field their first drive for a touchdown, looking eerily similar to last weeks debacle at Tampa Bay. After the first series, the defense settled down and played like we know they’re capable of doing.
Let’s start with the big momentum swing in the first quarter:
New Orleans QB Drew Brees was backed up into his own end zone. Brees, who is normally one of the best in the NFL when it comes to reading defenses, never saw safety Charles Godfrey reading his eyes anxiously waiting in the backfield. Godfrey steps in grabbing the interception returning it for a touchdown, the first of his career.
The offense seemed to come alive after Godfrey’s interception on defense. QB Cam Newton came out looking flawless, having plenty of time in the pocket thanks to great protection from the offensive line. Rookie Amini Silatolu looked nothing like a rookie. He cleared pathways for our running backs as if he’s been a longtime veteran. If Silatolu can play like this every game, Newton will continue to have a phenomenal season.
The stellar play of third-year WR Brandon LaFell (6 rec., 90 yards) helped to take the pressure off star receiver Steve Smith. Smith went over 100 yards (3 rec., 104 yards), making several huge catches when we seemed to need it most. As he always does, Smitty had an extra edge about him this game that showed throughout.
All in all, this was an excellent turnaround for the Panthers. They put pressure on Brees all day, and continued to push their way down the field on offense. Cornerbacks Chris Gamble and rookie Josh Norman did a great job at containing Marques Colston and Lance Moore. Jon Beason (7 tackles) came up with some huge plays, including his interception towards the end of the game to seal the win for Carolina. Thomas Davis (3 tackles) continued to look great on the field making big plays, all this after coming back from ACL tears on his left knee. Thomas Keiser came up with a sack, and recently acquired DT Dwan Edwards continued playing well.
We now have a very short week before the Panthers face the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants in a nationally televised Thursday Night Football matchup in Charlotte! Both teams are coming off very tough wins on Sunday and will need to bring their best if they want this victory. I give the edge to the Panthers as we have home field advantage. As Newton said after Sunday’s victory over the Saints, “own what’s ours.”
This is especially true when playing in your home stadium come Thursday Night Football!
Prediction: Panthers 28, Giants 17