WHAT WE LEARNED

The Saints play well against depleted teams. That’s the only thing that comes to mind. This Carolina team is a shell of the team that won the NFC South last year. Give the Saints credit for winning a road game and claiming first place in the division, but they were supposed to do that. When Carolina is the second-best team in your division your division is bad.

BAD START

Saints quarterback Drew Brees had two turnovers to stop drives that would have yielded points. On the Saints’ first possession, Brees forced a pass into tight coverage in an attempt to get the ball to receiver Kenny Stills, but the ball was deflected and intercepted by defensive lineman Dwan Edwards. The worse thing about the interception was that it came on third down and running back Mark Ingram was open in the flat for a sure first down. On the second turnover, Brees dropped back to pass, was bumped by fullback Erik Lorig who was blocking a defensive lineman, and fumbled.

THE DEFENSE IMPROVES, A LITTLE

With Steve Smith Sr. no longer on its roster, Carolina just didn’t have the kind of high-powered passing offense to take advantage of Saints defensive secondary. And facing a mostly-backup Carolina offensive line, the Saints defensive linemen looked like the second coming of “The Fearsome Foursome.” But give the Saints credit, because they did what they had to do. They were aggressive and smart. They made few mental mistakes and continued their penchant for creating turnovers.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The Saints still look like a team that is battling against itself. The swag and the consistent play aren’t there enough to call them one of the best teams in the NFC, but they aren’t one of the worst teams either. The division is there for the taking, and based on the rest of the teams they could win the NFC South by default.

THE DRIVE OF THE NIGHT

The Saints’ 14-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to take a 21-7 lead in the third quarter was arguably their best drive of the season. It ended on a 1-yard quarterback sneak for a touchdown by Brees. It consisted of tough runs and conversions. This is the kind of drive a team can build on.

UP NEXT

The Saints host the San Francisco 49ers in the Superdome on Nov. 9.