Saints vs. Panthers defensive film study: Closer look at Brandon Browner's penalties, how New Orleans is using him _lowres

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Devin Funchess (17) touchdown in front of New Orleans Saints cornerback Brandon Browner (39) in the second half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)

Eliminate everything else, and Brandon Browner’s coverage stats weren’t the bad.

He gave up four receptions on nine targets for 55 yards during Sunday’s 41-38 loss to the Carolina Panthers, which is a manageable figure. The areas where he struggled Sunday won’t show up in that stat line.

In fact, some of his lower moments end up looking like positives in those statistics.

It’s been the policy here not to blow up Browner’s penalties since it was known that he draws a lot of flags – fair or not – when the Saints signed him. It seems like low-hanging fruit and it was obvious those flags were going to fly the day they signed him.

The simple fact is he has a reputation and isn’t going to get away with grabbing a little jersey like some other guys might.

That doesn’t mean all of them should be overlooked. The penalty he drew after laying out a Panthers offensive lineman following a 3-yard run by Jonathan Stewart on the first play of the third quarter was tough to swallow. The play was dead and Browner appeared to be aware of it, yet he still delivered a hit that cost the defense 15 yards.

Browner drew another flag later in the series, his third of the game, when he held Ted Ginn Jr. on an incomplete pass on third-and-9 in the end zone. While the infraction wasn’t egregious, it’s unfortunate because it did not look like Browner needed to hold to maintain coverage.

Browner’s two poorest moments came on incomplete passes during the same series. He was first beat down the sideline on a deep pass that was dropped by Ginn, and then again two plays later when Panthers receiver Corey Brown froze Browner, who was playing off coverage, with an inside move.

Browner did not have safety help on either play.

The fact is that Browner probably shouldn’t have been covering the speedy Ginn, but an injury to Delvin Breaux forced the situation. Brown is also quick, but Browner should be able to handle that matchup and probably wishes he had the snap back.

Browner’s stats look a lot different if one – or both – of those passes are caught. But it’s also important to note that he was also left in some situations that probably do not play to his strengths.

DEFENSIVE LINE: 2 out of 4

Tyeler Davison did a very good job filling in for the injured John Jenkins, and finished with two run stuffs and a quarterback hurry. He drew some double teams at times and did a good job of opening lanes for his linebackers. It will be interesting to see if he maintains a larger role once Jenkins is ready to return. … This was easily the best game of Kevin Williams’ tenure with the Saints. He finished with five pressures, blocked a field goal and nearly caused an interception by hitting Cam Newton as he released a pass. We’ve seen him perform well in spurts this season, but this his most consistent game. If he can push the pocket like he did Sunday moving forward, it will be a major benefit for the defense. … Cam Jordan picked up a sack due to Newton’s indecisiveness on one play and lost another due to a penalty by Kenny Vaccaro. He only had one other hurry, but was strong in run defense, stuffing a couple runs. … This doesn’t just fall on the line, but the whole defense needs to get better against the run. The Panthers gutted the Saints for 5.1 yards per carry. The offenders were all over the field, at every position.

LINEBACKERS: 2 out of 4

The Saints blitzed on 14 passing plays and surrendered 10 receptions. Newton did a good job of recognizing where the pressure was coming from and beat the Saints a few times. On Mike Tolbert’s touchdown in the first quarter, he saw where Hau’oli Kikaha was coming from and hit Tolbert in the vacated spot. … Stephone Anthony had a very solid game. He forced a fumble and ran it back for a touchdown, returned a blocked extra point for two points, and was very good against the run. But he continues to have issues in coverage. There were a couple times when tight end Greg Olsen was allowed to run free and he appeared to pass through Anthony’s zone when in route. He gets a pass for ended up chasing Ginn on a long touchdown. That’s a tough matchup for a linebacker to win. … Kikaha had a solid game, recording three pressures and a few run stuffs. … James Anderson was a pleasant surprise. He did some things well in run defense. His pass coverage could improve, but he’s been better than the other options at weakside linebacker.

SECONDARY: 1.5 out of 4

There was only one obviously blown broken coverage Sunday, and it came when Ginn ran between between Browner and Byrd in a zone coverage. Browner stayed put to focus on an underneath running back while Newton hit Ginn for a touchdown. It’s unclear who was supposed to pick up the receiver, only that no one accounted for him. … It’s scary to think where this run defense would be without Kenny Vaccaro. He cleans up a lot and makes even more plays. He did wipe out a pass breakup by Breaux by handing the ball back to Ginn after the conclusion of the play. … Breaux continues to be extremely impressive. He was targeted four times, broke up one pass and intercepted another. Losing him was a major blow for the secondary. … It seems what you’re seeing now is the totality of all the injuries in the secondary weighing down this team. Guys like Chris Owens and Brian Dixon were receiving snaps, when they wouldn’t even see the field if Breaux hadn’t injured his hamstring in the first half, Keenan Lewis wasn’t on injured reserve and Damian Swann were available to play. It’s hard to mask those many injuries. … Dixon actually wasn’t bad in coverage, but he missed at least four tackles and allowed some runs to go for extra yards.