- THE SAINTS OFFENSE: Was there anything more clutch than when the team drove 97 yards on 11 plays for a touchdown to take a 13-10 lead with 6:37 left in the game? The touchdown pass from Drew Brees to tight end Jimmy Graham was a thing of beauty. Too bad they didn’t connect more during the game. It’s also a shame that the drive didn’t go down in Saints lore as the drive that sealed the division.
- SAINTS COACH SEAN PAYTON: For the record, the coach batted .500 with his two big moves this week in the signing of place-kicker Shayne Graham and starting rookie Terron Armstead at left tackle. If the Saints are smart, Graham will be signed long term. He is that good, steady and clutch. Garrett Hartley who? Payton also did a disservice by not letting him try a 52-yard field goal in the third quarter.
- SAINTS RB MARK INGRAM: Usually Ingram is the king of making big runs in inconsequential moments, pumping his fists and getting the Saints nation fooled into thinking he is everything the team thought he would be when it over-traded for him. But Ingram was good against the Panthers. He ran hard and strong and was fast. This Mark Ingram deserves more carries.
- THE SAINTS DEFENSE: It’s amazing how a group of guys can look like cousins of the 1985 Bears for 59 minutes and then shrink into oblivion in the final minute. Championship teams don’t let an injured Cam Newton drive his team 65 yards on five plays for the game-winning touchdown in 32 seconds. Thirty-two seconds! Suddenly the blitz-happy Rob Ryan turned into Monte Kiffin. Inexcusable.
- SAINTS COACH SEAN PAYTON: This was the big decision Payton missed — Armstead starting at left tackle on the road against a Pro Bowl (or soon to be pro bowl after this game) defensive end. It was a recipe for disaster. Armstead was nervous and outmatched. Payton also did not do the player any favors by not helping him with other players. Armstead needed a game under his belt to get his confidence. Granted, the offensive line played better in the second half, but you can’t have bad starts against good teams on the road.
- THE SAINTS’ MENTALITY: This team just lacks a mental toughness on the road that the great teams always seem to have. Look at the Ravens, the Patriots and even the Seahawks; those teams have swagger in big moments. The Saints don’t.
Pierce W. Huff