By Ted Fleming
New Orleans Saints by the numbers:
2012 Record: 0-1
All-Time Record vs. Carolina: 17-17
Last Meeting: Saints 45, Panthers 17 (January 1, 2012)
Current Streak vs. Carolina: W4
The Saints seek their first win of the season against a Panthers team that is looking for the same thing, and the winner will take a one-game advantage in the all-time series between the two clubs.
New Orleans has a few things going against them, an embarrassing opening day loss at home to the Redskins and rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III still fresh in their minds, and having a second interim head coach to the first interim head coach for the regular head coach on the sideline.
Aaron Kromer has the tough task of leading the Saints for the first six games of the year while Joe Vitt sits out for his participation in the bounty scandal that rocked the franchise. Vitt had been tabbed to take over for Sean Payton, who was also banned, but for the entire season. Confused?
Under normal circumstances, Kromer would have been the offensive line/running game coach, but now has the responsibility of trying to not only motivate a team that should have been inspired enough by the lifting of the player suspensions to Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith, but to also find a way to stop the bleeding on an defense that let Washington pile up 459 total yards and 306 through the air. The Panthers have a very potent offense, despite what they showed in their opener against the Buccaneers with Cam Newton under center.
Carolina is not known for having a stellar defense either, but they came to play against an improved and enthusiastic Buccaneers team that was trying to make a good first impression for new boss Greg Schiano. There were six new faces that started in the opener – DT Dwan Edwards, DT Ron Edwards, LB Jon Beason, LB Luke Keuchly, CB Josh Norman and S Haruki Nakamura – and they might be able to make some inroads against an offense that has ranked in the NFL’s top five in passing in each season since 2006, averaging 291.4 net yards per game to lead the league during the period.
Keys to the game:
Defense, defense and more defense – for both teams if they expect to win.
The Panthers seem to have a bit of an edge if the opener if Tampa is any indication, but the Saints have an offense from a different planet. Drew Brees has picked apart some great teams in his career, but then again, he has never had the kinds of distractions he will carry into the game. A running game is not very important to a team that can throw 70 times and still win going away.
The Panthers have to be wary of a late game charge by the Saints like they did against the Redskins, and they have to establish a running game, otherwise Cam Newton will be hamstrung the same way he was against the Buccaneers. They also have to take the field and forget about Newton being a target in Bounty Gate and the run-up of the score in the 2011 season finale. They have enough to worry about with Brees.
Carolina: Cam Newton – 23/33, 303 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, 3 Sacks, 83.3 Passer Rating
New Orleans: Drew Brees – 24/52, 339 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT, 2 Sacks, 70.9 Passer Rating
Panthers: WR Brandon LaFell played at LSU from 2005-2009. DE Frank Alexander is from Baton Rouge. Offensive line coach John Matsko spent time in New Orleans coaching the Saints line from 1994-1996.
Saints: S Rafael Bush attended South Carolina State University (2007-10) and hails from Williston, SC. RB Travaris Cadet attended Appalachian State University (2009-2010). TE Jimmy Graham is from Goldsboro, SC. Special teams coordinator Greg McMahon coached at East Carolina in 2005. Secondary coach Ken Flajole coached linebackers for the Panthers from 2003-2008.
For more Local Football Bloggers and the latest Panthers news, see CBS Sports Charlotte.
Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.