Panthers vs. Saints: 2013 'Can't Come Fast Enough' for New Orleans

Knox BardeenNFC South Lead WriterDecember 30, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 30:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints watches the game against the Carolina Panthers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 30, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The dreadful, painful, miserable and hopefully forgettable 2012 football season for the New Orleans Saints has mercifully come to an end.

The Carolina Panthers scored four unanswered touchdowns over a 15:25 span in the third and fourth quarter to beat the Saints, 44-38. The loss was New Orleans’ ninth of the season (second to the Panthers), marking the worst Saints' season since 2007.

The Saints 2012 season started off the field, with suspensions handed down because of the BountyGate fiasco. It got rolling on the field with four consecutive losses and was highlighted by terrible defense all season.

Four teams—including the Panthers, who pasted 530 yards Sunday against New Orleans—tallied 500 or more yards on the Saints defense this year, and offenses ran and threw for at least 400 yards in all but four games.

New Orleans set a rather atrocious record by giving up 7,042 total yards to opposing teams.

It typically takes some time for a team to catch on with a new defensive coordinator, especially a coordinator like Steve Spagnuolo, whose schemes are particularly tough to master.

But the Saints problems go farther than Spagnuolo’s new defense.

But the Saints weren’t only deficient on defense. The offense, while setting some amazing records, still had problems—like in the running game.

Seven times New Orleans failed to gain 100 yards on the ground as a team. The Saints lost all but two of those games.

“Our ability to run the football really picked up in the second half of the season,” said quarterback Drew Brees in his postgame press conference. “But that's something, especially with this stable of backs, we can continue to fine-tune.”

Brees will also want to fine-tune his interception rate. He finished with a league-worst 19 picks. He also finished with a few league-bests, as well.

 Brees finished the season with 43 touchdown passes (including four on Sunday against the Panthers), becoming the second quarterback in league history (Dan Marino was the first in 1984 and 1986) to have two 40-plus touchdown seasons. He also finished 2012 with 5,177 yards passing and is the only passer in league history to have three 5,000-yard passing seasons.

Not everything in 2012 and not even everything in Week 17 went wrong for the Saints. But there’s a relentless feeling of need for the 2013 season to arrive to wipe out the memories since April.

"This offseason can't come fast enough, I'll tell you that right now," Brees said. "The time off is going to be good for everyone, as it always is. Refresh, get your bodies right, get yourself mentally ready. Because when we come back in April, it's on."


Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.

Knox Bardeen is the NFC South lead writer for Bleacher Report and the author of “100 Things Falcons Fans Should Know & Do Before they Die.” Be sure to follow Knox on Twitter.