New Orleans Saints Find Swagger; Lead NFC South

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Last week in Seattle, the New Orleans Saints faced one of the most humiliating nights a perennially successful football team can face, losing to the Seattle Seahawks 34-7 and looking abysmal the entire time. However, in typical Saints fashion, New Orleans was able to bounce-back from a night of adversity to defeat the Carolina Panthers Sunday night by a score of 31-13, giving the Saints the NFC South lead and also cementing several records along the way.

The game started sluggishly for the now 10-3 Saints, with the Panthers coming out of the gates fast and scoring 2 field goals in the first quarter while possessing the ball for a total of 11 minutes and 30 seconds. By the time the second quarter rolled around, though, the Saints had found their footing. In the second quarter alone, the Saints scored 3 touchdowns, with Brees completing 14 of 16 passes for 159 yards total.

The performance by Brees and the Saints is all the more impressive when one considers the fact that the Panthers rank 2nd in overall defensive statistics in the NFL, ranking 5th in passing defense and 1st in running defense individually, and 1st in scoring defense, allowing only 13.1 points-per-game.

Cam Newton, who had led the Panthers to 8 consecutive victories during his second year in the NFL, voiced his obvious disappointment toward Carolina's performance: "I felt as if those guys just were better than us today. Are they better than us? No. But today, it showed the name of the game is scoring more points than the other team. Those guys did, and we just got the short end of the stick."

While Newton and the Panthers lamented their paltry offensive performance, the Saints were relishing the fact that their defense had finally gotten its act back together: “To go out and play the way we did today, we got our confidence back and kind of got our swagger back. And that's Saints football, what you saw out there today. I don't know what that was last week,” stated Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton.

Many NFL fans and analysts have questioned the success of the Saints this year. Their second-place passing ranking displays the fact that their offense can compete at a high level, but many have questioned whether their defense is up to par, especially when on the road. This season, the Saints are 10-0 at home, but suffer when playing on the road, boasting an even record of 3-3.

If the Saints's defense can't cut it, it will be up to quarterback Drew Brees to push the New Orleans team to victory. This game against the Panthers marked several career records for Brees, now in his 13th NFL season. During Sunday's game, Brees became the first quarterback in the history of the NFL to throw for 4,000 yards in 8 or more consecutive seasons, along with becoming the first to pass for 30 TD's in 6 or more consecutive seasons. Brees also became the quickest quarterback to surpass the 50,000 career yard mark, beating Peyton Manning by 8 games.

The New Orleans Saints currently lead the NFC South by 1 game over the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers have a chance to even the season series when the Saints go to Charlotte on December 22. Even if the Panthers win the rematch, however, the Saints can clinch the No. 2 seed in the NFC by winning two of their last three games.

[Image via YouTube]

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