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John DeShazier: Saints top performers vs. Carolina Panthers

Drew Brees. Kenny Vaccaro and Wil Lutz get helmet stickers

OFFENSE: The greatness of Drew Breesis that the spectacular has become routine. Sunday's shredding of Carolina's defense – completing 34 of 49 passes for 465 yards, with four touchdowns and an interception – was his 15th 400-yard passing game, an NFL record. The interception wasn't pretty (when are they?), but he pretty much was flawless in a performance that ranks right up there with the other outstanding ones he has had in his career. I won't overlook the offensive line, fullback John Kuhnand tight end Josh Hill. Brees only was sacked once and on two long completions to Brandin Cooks– an 87-yard touchdown in the first quarter and a 49-yarder pitch-and-catch in the fourth – Brees was given time that was more than ample by his protectors. But this sticker goes to the record setter, who shows no sign of slowing down.

DEFENSE: There isn't much that's asked of safety Kenny Vaccarothat the four-year veteran can't do, and he showed that Sunday. He was credited with eight tackles and three quarterback hurries and he couldn't have been much more active if he'd been twins. He took a bum rap on a pass interference in the end zone against Panthers tight end Greg Olsenon fourth-and-3 from the 17 in the third quarter, a play that would've gotten the Saints defense off the field. Head turned, playing the ball – probably the way he's been taught to play it. But he continues to show he can be used in a multitude of ways (in pass coverage, on the blitz, as a run stopper) and be effective in them. Toss an honorable mention to two guys: cornerback Sterling Moore(three tackles, a pass defensed and an interception) was pretty solid and defensive end Kasim Edebali(three tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry) camped out in Carolina's backfield.

SPECIAL TEAMS: More than ineffective, you could say that rookie kicker Wil Lutzhad been put in some fairly difficult positions so far. Entering Sunday, his three missed field goals had been from 50 and 61 yards in his NFL debut, and a 32-yarder that was blocked by the Giants in a protection breakdown. And against the Panthers, he missed a 53-yarder in the second quarter that would've stretched the lead to 24-0. But when called upon with 16 seconds left to kick a 52-yarder for the win, Lutz came through in a 41-38 victory. That's a huge confidence boost all the way around: for Lutz, who now has proof that he can come through in such situations; for his teammates, who now will have more peace of mind when the time comes to turn over the game to his right foot; and for his coaches, who obviously want to feel good about the decision to sign Lutz and cut Kai Forbathafter Forbath won the preseason/offseason battle to be the Saints' kicker. Rookie receiver Jake Lampman(three tackles) and rookie running back Daniel Lasco(two) were standouts on coverage teams and deserve mention. But Lutz was clutch and in addition to the game-winner, he kicked a 33-yard field goal and had five touchbacks on kickoffs to limit the opportunities of Ted Ginn Jr., one of the league's best returners.

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