Key Coaching Decision #1 (NO leads 31-26 / 4th & 2 CAR 47 / 2:00 Q4)
- New Orleans faced a 4th & 2 near midfield with two minutes left in the game. Outside of an explosive scoring play to RB McCaffery, Carolina had only assembled one touchdown drive that drove the length of the field. Carolina had no timeouts. Instead of punting the ball, New Orleans elected to go for it, and by doing so risked 40 yards of field position at a crucial point in the game. Luckily for New Orleans, the pass was intercepted, giving the Panthers an extra 20 yards of field position to cover, but the decision itself was not one we agree with, and brought down their play calling score from what otherwise was a very impressive day in this category.
- New Orleans demonstrated some exceptional offensive play calling in this game, especially in the 1st half. QB Drew Brees was extremely accurate, but the Saints found schematic advantages as well, such as:
- Quick routes underneath Carolina cornerbacks playing with 7-8 yards of cushion
- One-on-one mismatches i.e. linebackers covering tight ends
- Passing out of run formations to force coverage errors from the Carolina defense
- Saints converted two third downs by running a simple pass play – quick out from the slot receiver to pull the safety to the flat, throw the ball to No. 1 receiver running slant behind the safety working to the flat in front of cornerback playing 7-8 yards off the ball. It was a simple route concept that was not adjusted to at halftime, as the play converted a 3rd down for the Saints on their opening drive of the 2nd half (9:06 Q3) as well as in the 1st half (1:52 Q2).
- Both teams did an excellent job of shutting down the opponent’s run game. As far as winning the game relied on production from the pass game, New Orleans separated themselves by executing an impressive schematic game plan as outlined above. Carolina relied mainly on throwing into tight windows and counting on their receivers and tight ends to win their 1-on-1 matchups, which they did often. This was enough to keep the game close, but was not a strong strategy in terms of offensive play calling.