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John DeShazier: Takeaways from Sean Payton's Panthers press conference

Defending Cam Newton's run plays will be a challenge

Quick takes from New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton's news conference Tuesday afternoon:

  1. Carolina's offense begins with, and revolves around, quarterback Cam Newton. In the first game against the Panthers, a 41-38 Saints victory at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Oct. 16, Newton, in his first game back after missing one game due to being in the league's concussion protocol, completed 27 of 47 passes for 322 yards and two touchdowns, with an interception, and also ran for a 2-yard touchdown. In the three games since, he has had seven, seven and a season-high 12 rush attempts. "You have to prepare for those designed runs," Payton said. "You get him in the red zone, he's real effective – they're real effective – down inside the 10-yard line. That becomes real challenging. The ones that are quarterback runs from a design, we can script. The ones that come from a play that's broken are a little bit more difficult."
  2. The Thursday night game likely is the most taxing for any team, due to the short week of recovery and preparation. Yet the Saints have won three straight on Thursday night – at the Georgia Dome against Atlanta in 2013, at Bank of America Stadium against the Panthers in '14, and in the Superdome against the Falcons in '15. There's no magic formula to it, Payton said. "We've got to manage the schedule, make sure we recover and do those things, pay attention to the detail that way."
  3. Drew Brees is on a pace to surpass or challenge several of his season bests, which is saying something for the record-setting quarterback. Entering Thursday's game he has completed 263 of 376 passes for 2,992 yards and 24 touchdowns. Those numbers project out to 468 completions, 668 attempts, 5,319 yards and 43 touchdowns. His single-season best numbers in each category: 468 completions, 670 attempts, 5,476 yards and 46 touchdowns. He also is completing 69.9 percent of his passes; only twice has he topped that mark, at 71.2 and 70.6. "It's hard to distinguish, or separate, this year from a year ago or two years," Payton said. "I thought he played well last year and I think the key is, at this point in the season, us finding ways to win games. But you certainly see his health and his accuracy, and you see the mobility. Those are all good signs for your starting quarterback."
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