Eliminate everything else, and Brandon Browner’s coverage stats weren’t 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 problem is the areas where he struggled Sunday won’t show up in that stat line.
In fact, some of his lower moments ended up looking like positives in those statistics.
It’s been the policy here not to blow up Browner’s penalties, because 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, and some of the penalties are inexcusable. But it’s also important to note that he was left in some situations that probably do not play to his strengths.
QUARTERBACK: 2 out of 4
Brees didn’t have a bad game. He completed 24 of 42 passes for 282 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. But he had a few poorly placed passes and missed some open receivers, particularly Brandin Cooks over the middle on the interception.
Typically, such a performance would be good enough. The offense did put up 38 points. It just wasn’t good enough in this particular instance, so you end up nitpicking some of the smaller moments.
RUNNING BACKS: 3 out of 4
The only bad thing about this performance is that Mark Ingram did not receive more opportunities to run the ball, as he picked up 56 yards on 12 carries.
Carolina refused to stack the box against the Saints, even when in 12 (two-tight end) personnel, so Ingram never saw more than seven men in the box on any of his runs. Six of his runs, including gains of 14 and 9 yards, came out of 11 personnel (one tight end).
WIDE RECEIVERS: 3 out of 4
Brandon Coleman was very solid filling in for Willie Snead. He got open running various routes and was solid after the catch, even beating Josh Norman once for an 11-yard gain. He had one bad play blocking, which resulted in a run stuff, but he laid a key block on Ingram’s touchdown run.
This was the first time this season you could really see Coleman’s potential outside of singular moments.
OFFENSIVE LINE: 2 out of 4
Rookie Andrus Peat played a better game at guard in this one. He looked strong at times in both the running and passing games, but he still gave up four pressures. He was involved in one of the sacks. He passed off the man he was blocking to Terron Armstead, to pick up another rusher, and the initial man reached Brees. On this ledger, the sack goes on Armstead.
This was one of the shakier performances of Max Unger’s tenure in New Orleans. The low point came when Kyle Love blew by him to record a run stuff on Ingram. He allowed two other stuffs.
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’ time 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 was 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.
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 he was very good against the run.
But he continues to have issues in coverage. There were a couple of 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 ending 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.
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 Jairus 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.