|Ron Rivera's Panthers are out for revenge against the Saints. (AP)|
Every week, NFL coaches search for ways to motivate their players. The Patriots ' Bill Belichick mastered the strategy in 2007, convincing his players no one respected them. The Patriots went undefeated in the regular season. (The galvanizing effect Spygate had on the locker room also motivated the Pats). But it's difficult to come up with something every week that is so incendiary that it inspires the team.
Well, Panthers coach Ron Rivera will have no such issues ahead of Sunday's game with the Saints. If there's one thing that truly gets players going it's having another team show them up. In Week 17 last season, New Orleans whipped Carolina, 45-17.
Some Panthers believed the Saints were running up the score. It's one thing to get beat, it's something else entirely to be disrespected in the process. The offseason also brought news that the Saints were targeting Panthers quarterback Cam Newton during that game.
Newton wasn't alone. In April, wide receiver Steve Smith said a Saints player admitted to targeting him last year. Yeah, that didn't end so well for the Saints.
“It's a philosophy," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said of suspended Saints coach Sean Payton (via the Charlotte Observer's Joe Person). "It's an attitude. And that's what his is. So he coaches that way and they play that way. My attitude and my philosophy is win the football game, and then be smart about the next week. That's just the way I look at it -- a difference in philosophy.”
There's also the philosophy that karma can bite you in the rear, which would be an understatement given all that's happened to the Saints the past six months.
Quarterback Drew Brees explained Wednesday that the reason he was still in a game long after it had been decided was to make sure the single-season passing record he set the week before remained safe (New England's Tom Brady was in close pursuit). There was also the issue of padding some of his teammates' stats, too.
“When it got into the third and fourth quarter, Sproles was close to the record of most all-purpose yards in history. Jimmy Graham was close to most yards for a tight end in history,” Brees said. “So were we trying to get those guys some touches, some yards, in order to break those records? Yeah, absolutely. Who wouldn't?”
By the time Brees left early in the fourth quarter, the Saints led by four touchdowns. Still, there was no let-up when backup Chase Daniel came in. New Orleans was set to go for it on a fourth-and-1 from its 41 before a five-yard penalty forced a punt.
“When you're going for it on fourth-and-1 when you're up by 50,000 points, it's what you're supposed to do. But it's not what you're supposed to do, at the same time,” defensive end Greg Hardy said. “So I'm not happy about that.”
Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn added: “They broke a lot of records. I think they broke like 10 records against us. I'm fired up about that. It's in my mind still and I know some guys on defense, we don't like that.”
The Saints are favored by 2 1/2 points, and five of eight CBSSports.com writers have them winning Sunday. Pete Prisco, meanwhile, likes the Panthers to win 37-31.
For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to the Pick-6 Podcast on iTunes. You can follow Ryan Wilson on Twitter here: @ryanwilson_07.