I say all the time on the @jfpsports Twitter account that one of the biggest parts of sports is responding. If the other team scores can you respond with a score of your own or if your team scores can the defense respond with stop and so on.
The New Orleans Saints got punched in the mouth (repeatedly) last week by the Washington Redskins. Washington dominated the New Orleans offensive and defensive line most of the game.
When the Redskins didn't control the line of scrimmage the Saints offense did a good job at moving the ball but the New Orleans defense line wasn't able to make sure tackles on Robert Griffin III, Washington's rookie quarterback.
This week is all about responding for the Saints as the face division rival Carolina Panthers. New Orleans will face as similar type quarterback this week in Cam Newton.
Last week, Carolina got shocked at home against Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers physically dominated the Panthers offense with their defense for a 16-10 victory.
It might seem early but New Orleans needs a win in this game to silence the critics who believe this will be a poor season because suspension to Sean Payton. The season isn't complete lost with a defeat in this game but the Saints will face an uphill climb if they lose.
New Orleans needs to spend this game punching the Panthers in the mouth. Respond should be the word of the week around the Saints.
Run the football
Against the Redskins the Saints ran the ball ten times for 32 yards. Here is that stat again: 10 RUSHES FOR 32 YARDS.
New Orleans has a deep stable of running backs and only fed the ball to Mark Ingram six times for 15 yards and Pierre Thomas four time for 17 yards.
The Saints were down for much of the game but New Orleans didn't even try to establish the running game early. Part of playing physical football is running the ball and the Saints didn't do that last week.
Running the ball ten times is not going to produce very many victories. Washington was able to build a nine minute advantage in time of possession in part because of the lack of a rushing attack by New Orleans.
The ground game will also help Drew Brees who attempted 52 passes against the Redskins. Brees didn't even complete 50% of his passes with only 24 completes out of those 52 attempts.
Protect the ball
New Orleans had three turnovers against Washington. The Saints had a fumble out of the end zone and two interceptions by Brees.
The fumble by Marques Colston didn't lead to any points by the Redskins. In fact, the Saints even got a blocked punt for a touchdown after the fumble. If anything the fumble did kill some of the Saint momentum.
Brees' first interception did major damage to the Saints hopes. Down just 33-25 (8 points) in a one possession game, Brees floated a pass that was picked off by Dejon Gomes who returned the ball to the Saints three yard line.
Washington scored one play later to pretty much wrap up the game. The last Brees interception was on the last play of the game. Down eight the Saints had to score on that play or they were going to lose.
New Orleans needs to protect the football better this Sunday. The Saints might have won against the Redskins if they had avoid one of those turnovers (one could argue, mainly the first Brees interception).
Receivers and offensive line need to be better
Brees was harassed most of the day against Washington. He was sacked twice, hit five times and pressured numerous times.
The offensive line wasn't horrible but it didn't play well enough to help the Saints win. Washington's defensive line was able to beat the New Orleans offensive line for much of the game.
New Orleans needs a better effort from the offensive line. The Saints also need a little better effort out of their receivers.
Brees wasn't as sharp as he normally is but the Saints receivers didn't help him out a lot on a day he struggled. Colston was targeted 11 times and only had four catches including the fumble.
Jimmy Graham and Lance Moore were both targeted ten times with only six catches apiece. Again, some of the passes thrown by Brees were not his best. Still the record breaking quarterback didn't get a ton of help his receivers.
Stop the run
Washington ran the ball 43 times for 153 yards. The Saints only allowed 3.6 yards per rush which isn't great but Griffin had only nine rushes for 42 yards at key times.
Tampa Bay held the Panthers to 10 yards on 13 carries. The Buccaneers defense made one dimensional and put extra pressure on Cam Newton to produce big plays with his arm.
Expect the Panthers to try to run the ball more than 13 times against New Orleans. The Saints must not get manhandled on the defensive line like last Sunday.
New Orleans failed to get a pass rush or stop the run because the Redskins controlled the Saints defensive line most of the day. Carolina will try to duplicate that game plan.
Don't Allow Cam Newton to Run
New Orleans faces a quarterback much like Robert Griffin III this week when they face Cam Newton.
Newton, much like Griffin, can make plays with his legs in several ways. He can buy time by scrambling until a receiver gets open, run for yardage (Newton is a powerful runner) on designed runs or if a play breaks down run for yardage to turn a negative play in to a positive play.
The Saints defense must keep contain in their rush and not let Newton get to the outside. New Orleans needs to keep Newton in the pocket and when they get a chance to tackle Newton, they can't miss him.
Tampa Bay forced Newton to beat them with his arm and he completed 23 of 33 pass for 291 yards with one touchdown but he had had two interceptions. The Buccaneers also had three sacks, two quarterback hits and pestered him all day.
New Orleans must do the same thing Tampa Bay did against Newton. The Saints can't let Newton run or scramble to make big plays.
Force Turnovers and Get Stops
New Orleans didn't force a single turnover against Washington. During the preseason, the Saints did a good job of forcing turnovers in nearly every game.
That was not the case against the Redskins. Even if the Saints offense cuts down of their turnovers, they need the defense to force turnovers to change momentum and big plays.
It would be even better if the Saints offense didn't turn the ball over at all and forced a couple of turnovers on defense.
The Saints also didn't get very many stops since the Redskins only punted three time all game. It is hard to win games when the defense only forces three punts for an entire game.
Even though the Saints blocked a punt that doesn't count as turnover. The blocked punt (or any punt for that matter) is only considered a fourth down play and New Orleans would receive the ball unless Washington gained a first down.