CHARLOTTE – For the second week in a row, the Panthers’ opponent is looking to bounce back from a loss to the NFC South-leading Saints.
Last week, it was the Giants who were coming off a home loss to New Orleans in which they gave up 33 points.
This week, it’s the Redskins who are coming off a road loss at New Orleans where they gave up 43 points.
Washington’s defense was shredded in the Superdome by Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who was nearly perfect, completing 26-of-29 passes for 363 yards and three touchdowns.
“We got gutted. No ifs, ands or buts about it – we got gutted,” Washington head coach Jay Gruden said during a conference call. “They didn’t even punt.”
Those who watched that Monday night drubbing would probably assume the Redskins have one of the worst defenses in the NFL.
But that’s not the case. Not even close.
Despite that embarrassing defeat, the Redskins rank fifth in total defense. The 21.8 points they are allowing per game is 10th best in the NFL (prior to Week 5, Washington ranked second league-wide in points allowed at 14.7 per game).
The high-powered Saints have a way of making defenses look bad – really bad – in that raucous dome.
The Panthers have experienced it themselves.
“I’ve been part of teams that have given up some of those yards,” head coach Ron Rivera joked after congratulating Brees for breaking the passing yards record. “(The Redskins) struggled because they played against a very good football team.”
"They had a rough night in New Orleans," offensive coordinator Norv Turner added, "and that’s a tough arena to go into under all those circumstances."
Even some of Carolina’s best defenses have struggled in the Big Easy.
The 2013 team that went 12-4 thanks in large part to an elite defense that gave up only 15.1 points a game? That group surrendered 31 points at New Orleans.
The 2015 team that became NFC champions? That unit allowed 38 points at New Orleans.
And last year, the Panthers gave up 31 points in both the regular season and postseason matchup at New Orleans.
Point is, we can’t judge the Washington defense off one rough outing, especially when it’s against that offense in that building.
That defense can create problems, from the disruptive D-line duo of Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne (both first-round picks from Alabama), to the back end where former South Carolina safety D.J. Swearinger is playing some of the best football of his career (Pro Football Focus has him as the team’s highest rated player).
“I don’t use Drew Brees as an excuse,” Gruden said. “We played Aaron Rodgers the week before and played pretty good, you know? This week will be no different. Cam Newton is one of the better quarterbacks in the league. We’re going to have to strap it up and play better.”