Shame on the Carolina Panthers, and - though it's true - I don't mean that in the sense that the saying "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me" should be reiterated in everyone of their team meetings after having New Orleans make them look pedestrian for the second time in as many games. On the contrary, the Carolina Panthers should feel bad about themselves because for the last week they have had football fans judging the Saints by the merits of the company they were keeping a top the NFC South.
Having their 8-game winning streak snapped by the first viable contender they had faced in months certainly didn't help their league-wide standing, but after yesterday I can confidently say that giving people the ability to say "oh wait, you're tied with THAT team" was a more damning indictment of the New Orleans' case for conference contention. Cam Newton and company might be deserving of a postseason appearance, but as they compare to the Saints? It's not worth a comparison.
That's now twice that the latter bested the former in each and every phase of the game, and neither came with the inevitable Defensive Rookie Of The Year taking away half the field. This win looked slightly different than the one that came in Week 3 because the Alvin Kamara Show has gone from being in production to being nominated for weekly awards since then. However, it felt eerily familiar in the sense that it made one team look like it should be apologizing for it's unfortunate association with a far less impressive team.
After giving up an initial touchdown drive that tied the score and had the Who Dat Nation bracing for one of those games, the defense stiffened and proved that it's not completely dependent on the presence of a shutdown corner as another in Ken Crawley returned to fill his role more than admirably. Outside of a garbage time score, the Saints gave up just seven points the rest of the day and even those came when a turnover gave them a short field to defend. They didn't turn Cam Newton into an interception dispenser like they did earlier in the season, but - under the lead of Cam Jordan - they made him look just as incapable of finding his own receivers. Regardless of how his final stats might read, Devin Funchess might as well have spent his Sunday touting his alma mater as a contender, because - when it mattered - his efforts in getting open against a depleted secondary were just as hopeless. Take away the busted coverage that allowed Christian McCaffrey to stroll into the end zone untouched and his contributions were...well...basically that of every white running back that doesn't play for the Patriots. For a little clarification on just how in sync the Saints defense was, look no further than this one stat that doesn't even seem possible after watching them fall all over themselves trying to tackle Todd Gurley...
A special teams unit that has barely been "special" enough to get told so by it's mother had a breakout performance that was - believe it or not - sparked by a a third string QB who repeatedly looked like he was shot out of a cannon while being used as a gunner. As for sentences I never thought I would write, Taysom Hill's ability to rush the punter turned Mike Palardy into a microcosm of his team's performance as he dropped the ball in laughable fashion. Tack on the Chris Banjo forced fumble that ultimately led to the dagger that was an insurance field goal, and not even Will Lutz pushing one right earlier in the half could sour a turnaround performance for a group that desperately needed it.
As for the offense? Well, I think I speak for everyone when I say it's hard to continue to find words to describe Alvin Kamara. No human body should be able to rebound over the goal line after absorbing a head-on collision with a linebacker so I truly hope that the NFL doesn't find out that the Saints are featuring an alien that is not constrained by the laws of physics in their backfield...
Between that 4th down score and the all-too-casual 20 yard scamper that he added in the second half, Alvin Kamara looked like some perverse combination of a greased pig and one of those bottom heavy blow-up toys that simply refuses to stay down. I know that's not the most flattering of comparisons, but - with him making a complete mockery of NFL defenses on a weekly basis - I'm running low on compliments. Luckily, the guy whose ability to rattle off a 72 yard run when you least expect it and has made it impossible for teams to game plan solely around a player that's literally running away as the Offensive Rookie Of The Year has no shortage of high praise...
As has become the case when the Saints are at their absolute best, Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara made yet another efficient performance from Drew Brees the footnote. Considering they have the Falcons coming up on a short week, I'm sure he appreciates the ability to fly under the radar. Let's hope the team that's won 9-of-10, just dominated an 8-3 division rival, and stands to solidify their two biggest weaknesses with the imminent return of their star left tackle and a transcendent rookie corner continues to do the same.