Panthers Hoping Third Time's the Charm

Sharon Thorsland
January 05, 2018 - 5:20 pm

© SIPA USA | 2017 Dec 31


For the third time this season, the Panthers will take on the Saints on Sunday. But there's a lot more riding on this match-up – it's the NFC playoffs, so it's win or go home. Kick-off is set for 4:40 in New Orleans, you can hear the game on WBT.

This game features the Panthers 7th ranked defense against the Saints high powered offense, which is racking up over 391 yards per game, that's 2nd in the league. Eleven time Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees has had a stellar season, throwing for over 4300 yards with 23 touchdowns and just 8 interceptions, and his 72 percent completion percentage was the highest in NFL history. He's got tons of weapons, including 2nd year receiver Michael Thomas, who leads the team with 104 catches, not to mention former Panther Ted Ginn, Jr. But the \Saints' most dangerous threat is running back Alvin Kamara. The rookie is a dual threat, with over 1500 combined rushing and receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. He averages an amazing 6.1 yards per rush, and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl for his efforts. Kamara teams with fellow Pro Bowler Mark Ingram to form one of the best tandems in the league. The pair averages 124 rushing yards per game, while the Panthers rank 2nd in the NFL allowing just 88 a contest. Slowing them down is a top priority for Luke Kuechly and the Panther defense. “The biggest thing for us is we got to get them before they get started,” said Kuechly. “That's easier said than done – those guys are big and strong and they're both a little bit different, so you've got to know who's in the backfield each time.”

The Saints defense isn't at the same level as the Panthers, but they're much improved from the beginning of the season, going from last in the league to 17, and they're giving up just 20 points a contest now, that's tied with the Panthers for 10th in the NFL. Rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore has sparked the turnaround, earning Pro Bowl honors while making a case for defensive Rookie of the Year. He missed both games against the Panthers due to injury, but still leads the team with 5 interceptions, one returned for a touchdown. Veteran safety Kenny Vaccaro is on I-R, so rookie Marcus Williams teams with 2nd year player Vonn Bell, he leads the team in tackles and has 4.5 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles. The saints have a pair of excellent pass rushers in Alex Okafor and Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan, he leads the team with 13 sacks. Former Panther A.J. Klein starts at outside linebacker. They'll face a Panther rushing attack that ranks 4th in the NFL averaging 131 yards per game.

The Panthers are geared up for this one – it's the playoffs so it's win or go home. They're facing a division rival for the third time this season, one that beat them the first two times. The Saints also have won seven straight in the Super Dome, and are 4-0 in the playoffs there under Drew Brees. But being the underdog is something this Panther team is embracing. “We don't back down from that,” said safety Mike Adams. “But our mentality is to win – we gonna come into this game and we expect to win.”


I like the sound of that – go Panthers!

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