In the Numbers: Maintaining

As the Saints prepare for Sunday's regular season finale against Carolina, one word comes to mind that could pretty much sum up this week: maintaining.

Carolina quarterback Cam Newton will be playing to maintain his lead in the race for Rookie of the Year honors.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees will play to maintain his lead in the race against Tom Brady for the best season passing for an NFL QB.

And, most importantly, the Saints will be playing to maintain their momentum heading into the playoffs, having won seven in a row.

Of course, Saints fans also will be trying to keep their momentum as the nuttiest fans in the NFL, easily helping their team win every game in the Superdome so far. There's little doubt the fans have a big effect on how these games are turning out.

It's All History
Sean Payton is 61-34 as a coach in the regular season, but he's only 5-6 against Carolina since taking over the Saints in 2006. In fact, he lost his first three games to the Panthers.

But the Saints have won three in a row and four of the past five.

In all, Carolina owns a 17-16 advantage in the series history, one that has been marked by close games. Of the 33 games played, 15 have been decided by eight points or less.

Two of the past three have been decided by a field goal or less, including the Saints' 30-27 come-from-behind win over Carolina this season on Oct. 9.

The Last Time:
When New Orleans went to Charlotte, N.C., in October, there was question as to how the Panthers would react to playing the Saints in Cam Newton's first game against them.

Turns out Newton was well-prepared. After settling down, he led the Panthers on two second-half scoring drives, handing Carolina a 27-23 lead with 12:32 to play.

But Brees led the Saints on a late scoring drive, eating up 6 minutes, 16 seconds off the clock, draining it down to just 50 seconds remaining while taking a 30-27 lead on a touchdown pass to running back Pierre Thomas.

Leading the pack:
Team leaders for the Saints heading into Carolina
Rushing (Total) Darren Sproles: 81 carries, 563 yards, 2 TD
Rushing (YPC) Darren Sproles: 7.0 yards per carry on 81 runs
Receiving (Total) Jimmy Graham: 91 catches for 1,213 yards, 10 TDs
Receiving (Catches) Jimmy Graham: 91 catches for 1,213 yards, 10 TDs
Scoring (non-kicker): Jimmy Graham (10 receiving TD)

2011 3's Company (third-down analysis offense)
199 plays overall of which 41 were runs and 158 were passes. They have averaged 6.59 yards per run and 8.67 yards per pass play.
Third-and-short (1-2 yards) - 27 runs, 21 first downs; 18 passes, 11 first downs
Third-and-(3-5) - 10 run, 4 first down; 49 passes, 30 first downs
Third-and-(6-10) - 4 runs, 2 first downs; 56 passes, 28 first downs
Third-and-(11-15) - 0 run, 0 first downs; 23 passes, 16 first downs
Third-and-(16-plus) - 0 runs, 0 first downs; 12 passes, 0 first downs

2011 3's Company (third-down analysis defense)
198 plays overall of which 25 were runs and 173 were passes. They have averaged 6.64 yards per run and 5.95 yards per pass play.
Third-and-short (1-2 yards) - 11 runs, 9 first downs; 22 passes, 8 first downs
Third-and-(3-5) - 8 run, 3 first down; 35 passes, 13 first downs
Third-and-(6-10) - 1 runs, 1 first downs; 71 passes, 27 first downs
Third-and-(11-15) - 0 run, 0 first downs; 26 passes, 5 first downs
Third-and-(16-plus) - 5 runs, 0 first downs; 19 passes, 2 first downs

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