Sat, 05 Dec 2020

Bridgewater leads charge for Panthers in homecoming vs. Saints

Field Level Media
22 Oct 2020, 12:05 GMT+10

Joe Brady's coaching career took off after his tenure with the New Orleans Saints. Teddy Bridgewater revived his career during his time with the Saints.

Now Brady and Bridgewater are key pieces to the 3-3 Carolina Panthers' rebuilding effort as they visit New Orleans (3-2) on Sunday.

Brady wasan offensive assistant under Sean Payton for two seasons before becoming passing game coordinator at LSU a year ago and transforming the Tigers' offense as they rolled to the CFP championship.

Bridgewater proved his recovery from a devastating leg injury suffered with the Vikings in 2016 was complete as he helped lead the Saints to a 5-0 record while Drew Brees was sidelined by injury last season.

Now Brady is the Panthers' offensive coordinator and Bridgewater is his starting quarterback.

First-year head coach Matt Rhule said the overlap that Brady and Bridgewater had in New Orleans in 2018 was "a game-changer" in the absence of any offseason program this summer because of COVID-19.

"We've been playing football for just two months or two and a half months," Rhule said. "Had it been someone new, the language, all that stuff would have been really hard. They were able to sit in a room and a lot of the language was similar, some of it being new and different.

"Joe's put his own twist on a lot of things obviously, but it's the same basic premise, same overall philosophy and I think it really has helped us."

Rhule praised Bridgewater's "global understanding of football."

"He's unbelievably smart football wise, does a great job of understanding what we're trying to get done, explaining it to others, having his own take on what we should get done," Rhule said. "I think because of that he helps people play better, guys follow him and I think that's because he's a tremendous leader."

The Saints, who are a half-game behind first-place Tampa Bay in their quest for a fourth consecutive NFC South title, are hopeful that All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas will play for the first time since injuring an ankle in the season opener.

Thomas was limited in practice Wednesday, but his absence from the Saints' last game -- a 30-27 overtime victory against the Chargers on Oct. 12 -- was for disciplinary reasons. The Saints had their bye last week, giving Thomas' ankle more time to heal.

"I think he's feeling better," Payton said.

The Saints will allow 3,000 fans into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for the game. There were no spectators for the opener and the last two home games have featured a maximum of 750 guests of the team.

"It's an important game," Payton said. "It's a division game. You really can't control when your bye week is. We had ours and we handled a few things that we wanted to address."

New Orleans won its last two games before the bye, but had to overcome a 14-0 deficit to beat Detroit 35-29 and twice trailed the Chargers by 10 points before rallying.

The Saints used the bye week to work on more complete performances.

"At the end of the day, it's being the most efficient, most productive offense we can be," Brees said. "In the running game, you can look at it as yards per carry, as short-yardage conversions, you can look at it any number of ways, but at the end of the day, are we sustaining drives? Do we have balance? Are we efficient? Are we avoiding negative plays and constantly getting positive plays? Are we scoring touchdowns and taking care of the football?

"So you really just try to simplify and look at it like that. When there are opportunities for big plays, are we making them? Otherwise, are we doing all the little things right to sustain drives and put points on the board."

For the Saints, starting tackle Terron Armstead (hand) did not practice Wednesday.

For the Panthers, starters CB Donte Jackson (toe), defensive tackle Zach Kerr (toe) and guard John Miller (ankle) were limited.

--Field Level Media

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