The Atlanta Falcons were on their bye week during week 7, but the rest of the division was busy at work.
The first game with the most extensive implications for the division was the Saints playing on the road against the Buccaneers. At one point in the second quarter, the Bucs were leading the Saints 21-7. Everything seemed right again in the world. The Bucs were 2-3 coming into the game, so mathematically they were the second best team in the division. The Saints were 1-4 and dwelling at the bottom of the division with the Panthers. It makes sense that Falcons fans would like the increased distance between themselves and the Bucs. But I can never, never root for the Saints.
Well, N.O. went on a run, and ended up leading 28-21. Malcolm Jenkins made a great touchdown saving tackle, and the Bucs were unable to score on that possession. It was a huge deal. The Saints ended up with a win 35-28. And they still almost lost that lead late in the 4th quarter.
One thing to look at in this game is the porous defenses that were highlighted. The Buccaneers are 25th in the league defensively (as far as yards per game given up), and the Saints are 32nd. New Orleans is 31st against the run and 30th against the pass. Tampa Bay is 3rd against the run, but 31st against the pass. And those trends proved out on Sunday. Tampa surrendered 458 total offensive yards, and New Orleans surrendered 513 yards. Both are really bad defenses. New Orleans offense simply generates more yards than anyone else in the NFL.
The other game of note was the Cowboys vs. the Panthers. Sure, the Cowboys wound up winning this game 19-14, but the real story is the fiasco that is Cam Newton and these Panthers.
Newton, the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft looked great his rookie year, but has been severely underwhelming in this, his sophomore season.
Newton was hitting on a bunch of really big plays in 2011. This season, not so much. Against the Cowboys, Newton was 21/37, 233 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Maybe they ran the ball really well? False. For a backfield taking up $35 Million, they only got 21 carries for 112 yards. The worst part is that many of these carries came out of that college zone-read play, and NFL defenses have figured that out. It’s no longer taking anyone by surprise. It’s no longer garnering large yardage, and it certainly doesn’t allow the Panthers to use play-action passes off of it. It’s very ineffective.
The bigger problem is Newton himself. Not only did Newton throw an interception, but he also lost an additional fumble and took a big sack at the end of the game when Carolina still had a chance. I guess it goes without saying that after that sack the Panthers no longer had much of a chance.
This morning, the Panthers fired their General Manger Marty Hurney. He certainly wasn’t doing a great job, but he is also being used as a scapegoat. Carolina is an unmitigated disaster. At least they beat the Saints for their only win of the season.