Yesterdy I gave you my impressions of the Panthers struggling, inexperienced offensive unit. Today I give you their defense and special teams.
General note. I like John Fox a whole lot and I like the way his teams play. If he gets bumped out of town and things go wrong in Chicago, the Bears should look in his direction.
- We have to start our evaluations of all opponents by looking at their pass rush. The Panthers don't have any elite talents up front but Charles Johnson seems capable of a multi-sack performance at the left end slot. The Panthers may not be sacking the quarterback much but Drew Brees was continually faced with a collapsing pocket and limited time to throw.
- If the Bears come out with a conservative, down-the-middle game plan they'll be playing right into the hands of the Panthers. The Saints moved the ball well with a terrific mix of end arounds, pitches and screens to various players. The Panthers look a bit lacking in sideline-to-sideline speed.
- That may be the reason Jeremy Shockey was open on what felt like every down. If he managed to catch more than 25% of the passes that touched his hands, he could have had a monster game.
- It's fun to spend the few hours watching other games closely because I get discover players like middle linebacker James Anderson. Anderson has an all-world motor, terrific gap discipline and solid ball awareness. He had two downfield fumble recoveries and a sack of Drew Brees to end the first half. If the Panthers send him at Cutler Sunday, he'll get there.
- The Saints have struggled offensively this year but they moved the ball well on the Panthers. In an almost Bearsian way, the Panthers continued to force fumbles and stunt drives. The Panthers want to beat their opponents at the turnover game, knowing it's the only way for them to accrue enough points to win.
- The Saints receivers had a hard time separating from the Panthers secondary. Marques Colston, Robert Meachem and Lance Moore each needed to work through traffic in order to make any kinds of plays downfield.
- This defense hustles. They play hard. They know that a couple touchdowns could put the game out of reach for the offense.
- Punter Jason Baker has the ability to completely neutralize Devin Hester in the punt return game. He routinely boots the ball fifty yards and the thing hangs up in the air forever.
- Watch out for Mike Goodson, the Panthers kickoff return man. If he plays - he suffered a vicious facemask penalty on Sunday - he has the kind of burst that could life tricky for the Bears.