An entertaining but fight-marred first half has ended with Carolina trailing New Orleans, 20-13.
A few thoughts on the first half:
-- These teams really don't seem to be able to stand each other. From the cheap shot Roman Harper took on Steve Smith in the end zone to the Panthers' Jermale Hines (who?) getting called for a very dumb personal-foul penalty to the end-zone brawl after the Smith-Harper incident, it's getting ugly. Jeremy Shockey is stirring things up on the Panthers' sideline.
-- Why in the world would the Panthers call timeout with 0:02 left in the first half? New Orleans kicker John Kasay wasn't going to be able to get the field goal off with his team out of timeouts. But the Panthers were desperately trying to get their field-goal block team onto the field and may have been about to get penalized for too many men on the field.
A suggestion: Keep your defense on for that field-goal attempt. Quit trying to shuffle personnel in that situation. Kasay wouldn't have had a chance to get it off.
Instead, Kasay was perfect as usual after the timeout, knocking it in from 46 yards and making a four-point lead a seven-pointer.
-- The Panthers certainly can move the ball against New Orleans. They have two TDs over 50 yards already -- the 54-yard pass to Smith and DeAngelo Williams' vintage 69-yard run on a college-style option from Cam Newton.
-- But New Orleans can move it just as well or even better. Drew Brees has been surgical against Carolina. He's 18-for-25 for 200 yards and a TD in the first half.
-- Newton basically gave New Orleans a TD by throwing a terrible interception on Carolina's first play from scrimmage that got returned to the 3. Since then, it's 13-all.
-- The Panthers' run defense looks a lot better, as New Orleans is only averaging 3.8 per carry. But Carolina can't get off the field on third down -- the Saints are 8-for-11 on third-down conversions -- which has led to New Orleans running 44 offensive plays to the Panthers' 19.
NFL schedule will be released Wednesday at 8 p.m.
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