Saints Panthers Football

New Orleans Saints running back Tony Jones Jr. celebrates after scoring against the Carolina Panthers during the second half of an NFL football game Monday, Sept. 18, 2023, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Rusty Jones) ORG XMIT: NCCC121

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The scoreboard at Bank of America Stadium told you more than just the final score Monday night.

It also told you the New Orleans Saints’ offense isn’t anywhere close to being as good as it needs to be.

Yeah, he Saints pulled away late to beat the Carolina Panthers 20-17, improving to 2-0 for the first time in 10 years.

But if you’re Derek Carr, Pete Carmichael and anyone else associated with getting this offense on track, you know that's not enough.

"There's a lot of work that needs to be done," Carr said. "We'll go back and look at it and be hard on ourselves."?

For the second straight week, an offense that was supposed to be much improved this season showed that it wasn’t. It continues to show flashes, especially down the stretch when it's time to put the game away. But the offense isn't nearly as efficient as it needs to be.

It’s still a work in progress, a unit that does just enough late in games to win.

“We have a lot of new pieces on the offensive side of the coach Dennis Allen said. “There is some growth that’s going to come with our football team.”

Fortunately for the Saints, the defense is good enough to carry the offense while it gets to where it needs to be.

The Saints would probably be 0-2 right now if it weren’t for a defense that limited the Panthers to three field goals, ruining No. 1 overall draft pick Bryce Young’s home debut.

The Saints defense has allowed just one touchdown this season, a late one with 1:16 remaining Monday night. They had gone 12 straight quarters without allowing a touchdown, going all the way back to the third quarter of last season’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

It was also the 10th straight game the Saints defense has held an opponent to 20 or fewer points, eclipsing the mark of nine straight games by the 1991 Dome Patrol defense.

During this streak of 10 games with fewer than 20 points allowed, the Saints are just 6-4 — a clear sign of just how much their offense is struggling.

If the offense ever catches up with the defense, this Saints team has a chance to be just as special as the players said all summer they can be.

If the offense doesn’t catch up, they’ll continue to have to scratch out wins like they did Monday night.?

Carr completed 21 of 36 passes for 228 yards, with no touchdown passes and one what-in-the-world-are-you-doing interception.

“We are not there in the passing game yet of where we need to be,” Allen said. “It’s more a consistency issue than ability-wise. There are some good things we are doing and a lot of things we need to do better.”

Carr was also sacked four times, equaling the total from last week — a reminded that the offensive line is a big part of the Saints' issues.

The running game was better than it was last week, averaging 4.1 yards per carry. (The Saints gained just 2.6 yards per carry in last week's 16-15 win over the Tennessee Titans in last week's season opener.)

That was particularly impressive considering the Saints had just two active running backs Monday night — and one of them, Jamaal Williams, left the game with a hamstring injury. Tony Jones, who scored the first two touchdowns of his NFL career, and Taysom Hill picked up the slack and helped.

The receiving corps of Michael Thomas, Chris Olave and Rashid Shaheed have lived up to expectations, coming up with clutch plays whenever the Saints needed them.

But the Saints will eventually need to get into the end zone more often. Three touchdowns in two games isn’t what this offense, with these weapons, was supposed to be.

"We can be so much better, " Olave said. "Especially coming out, we ‘ve got to start fast. We are so far from where we can be. We have so many weapons, so many guys who can touch the ball and score at any time. We’ve just got to keep getting better. It’s early in the year. I’m just glad we’re 2-0."

And really, that's all that really matters right now.?

The Saints are 2-0, tied for the NFC South division lead with the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.?For the first two weeks, it’s been the defense doing the heavy lifting.

Now it’s time for the offense to catch up.

Email Rod Walker at [email protected].