Charlotte, N.C. – There weren't many slaps on the back to pass around after the New Orleans Saints' 26-7 loss to Carolina at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday. The score was not a misleading one; the Panthers handled the Saints where they most needed to be handled, along the offensive and defensive lines.
As a result, the Panthers (2-0) remained unbeaten and the Saints (1-1) have some cleaning up that must be done before going to Foxborough, Mass., next Sunday for a game against New England (1-1). As for the standout players against Carolina:
OFFENSE: Honestly, there just wasn't one. New Orleans totaled 128 yards on offense. Quarterback Jameis Winston was sacked four times and hit 11 times. No running back totaled more than seven rushing yards and Lil'Jordan Humphrey's 27-yard reception was the Saints' longest play; they only had two plays of 20-plus yards. All in all, it was one of New Orleans' leanest outings in Coach Sean Payton's tenure (six first downs, nine unsuccessful tries on 11 third-down attempts). Watching film will be necessary, but probably uncomfortable.
DEFENSE: Well, we've wanted to see what first-round pick Payton Turner has to offer in a game. We got an idea Sunday. Turner didn't start at right defensive end, but in his NFL debut, he showed he knows how to finish plays, producing a sack, three tackles for loss, a quarterback hit and five tackles. Turner was influential, to say the least, as he routinely overpowered the left side of the Panthers' offensive line. We won't overlook the fact that he was assessed a pair of penalties, one of them a personal foul. But there's a lot to like in the first-round pick; now, he has to stay healthy and consistent, because the Saints will be a better team with him in the defensive line rotation.
SPECIAL TEAMS: If you block a kick, you're the outstanding special team player. That's kind of the rule, and that's what defensive end Carl Granderson did. Granderson takes pride in his special team work and looks forward to making a contribution there, and he was able to accomplish that on Sunday. In the third quarter, with the Panthers attempting a 55-yard field goal to push the lead to 20-0, Granderson powered up the middle, timed his jump and deflected Zane Gonzalez's attempt. The blocked kick floated to teammate Zack Baun, who zipped 33 yards to Carolina's 38-yard line.