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New Orleans Saints ride familiar recipe, improve to 2-0 with victory over Carolina

Defense allowed 239 yards, produced four sacks in another standout showing

Check out the game action from the New Orleans Saints game against the Carolina Panthers in Week 2 of the 2023 NFL season on Sept. 18 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Charlotte, N.C. – The New Orleans Saints' overall play through two games this season has been aesthetically pleasing in the place where it most needs to be: New Orleans is 2-0 after a 20-17 victory over Carolina on Monday night at Bank of America Stadium.

New Orleans is undefeated after two games for the first time since 2013 because for the second consecutive game, the Saints overall were outstanding defensively, solid on special teams and timely on offense. The chance to move to 3-0 will come Sunday, in a road game against the Packers in Green Bay, Wis., at Lambeau Field.

OFFENSE: New Orleans improved its red zone efficiency by scoring touchdowns on half of its four opportunities, but the offense was spotty for the entirety of the first half and a portion of the second until it finally found its footing. The running game vastly improved from Game 1 to 2, with 134 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries. Taysom Hill (nine carries for 75 yards) and Tony Jones Jr.  (12 carries for 34 yards and two touchdowns) led the way, and quarterback Derek Carr came up with a pair of huge completions – 42 yards to Chris Olave and 45 to Rashid Shaheed – in the third and fourth quarters when the Saints needed a big play. But pass protection remains a concern (Carr was sacked four times) and Carr (21 of 36 for 228 yards and an interception) made a poor decision on his pick.

DEFENSE: The unit was ticked off that it allowed a late touchdown – surrendered with 76 seconds left, the first touchdown it allowed this season after giving up eight field goals. But the Saints' defense has been menacing, and it did the job against rookie quarterback Bryce Young. Young completed 22 of 33 passes for just 153 yards and a touchdown, and was sacked four times. New Orleans yielded just 239 yards and the Panthers converted just four of 14 third-down opportunities. Defensive end Carl Granderson's sack and forced fumble, recovered by cornerback Paulson Adebo, essentially erased at least a field goal away from Carolina and the Saints would've forced another turnover if they hadn't committed a defensive holding on the play. Before the late touchdown, Carolina was 0 for 2 in the red zone and New Orleans now has gotten stops on five of six opponent trips to the red zone. That kind of work wins games.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Blake Grupe cashed in two short field goals when the Saints sputtered in the red zone, and Shaheed had a 16-yard punt return and a 25-yard kickoff return where he was probably a block or two from huge gains. Punter Lou Hedley wasn't great; his 29-yard punt in the first half gave the Panthers a shorter field to work with, and Carolina turned it into a 52-yard field goal. But Grupe's kickoffs went for touchbacks, and when the time came to cover punts only 15 yards were gained on two returns.

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Check out the game action from the New Orleans Saints game against the Carolina Panthers in Week 2 of the 2023 NFL season.

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