4 big-time matchups to watch during Panthers vs. Saints in Week 2

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /
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Carolina Panthers
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /

Carolina Panthers QB Sam Darnold vs. Starting caliber coverage

Sam Darnold did just what he needed to do against his old team, not lose the game.

With an eye-popping second quarter that was somewhat soured by a subpar second half, the former New York Jet went a long way toward quieting the whispers of dissension even amongst the most diehard of Carolina Panthers fans.

However, this won’t be enough against a shockingly stout New Orleans Saints defense.

While it remains to be seen whether the blowout defeat of the Green Bay Packers was because of particularly good defense or just an utter collapse by Aaron Rodgers after a very weird offseason. The fact still remains that it was the worst loss in the career of last season’s MVP and he looked mediocre at best for most of the game.

A Saints defense that was basically gutted because of the salary cap allowed only 133 yards, forced two interceptions and surrendered no touchdowns against Rodgers. A stat line that very few teams can produce.

That doesn’t really bode well for someone with Darnold’s track record.

I’m not saying that Darnold is a bad quarterback by any means, simply making the point that if this Saints defense can do that to someone like Rodgers, there is a need for concern.

Yes, Darnold looked very good in Week 1, but that was against some pretty poor coverage from a talent perspective and he should have looked much, much, better. Especially in the red zone where only one trip was converted into a touchdown.

The Jets didn’t have the kind of talent to do any trickery and try to confuse Darnold for the most part but that’s exactly what the Saints did to Rodgers and will look to do again.

Another thing to consider was how the Saints had a very similar effect on the run that the Panthers did, in fact allowing two fewer yards overall, which put even more weight on a passing attack that had lots of issues. A team that becomes one-dimensional is a beaten one.

So while all the pressure isn’t on Darnold as of now, a great deal of it will be, especially if the Panthers can’t get Christian McCaffrey and other weapons going early.

One small footnote that could turn into a rather large one is the health of Marshon Lattimore. He is expected to miss a number of weeks through injury and this is something the Panthers could exploit.