CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The tree trimming went faster than expected, so I wrote down a few observations from Seattle's 34-7 Monday night victory over New Orleans that Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera may or may not find useful as he prepares for the Saints.
His notes on New Orleans (9-3), the team Carolina (9-3) will face on Sunday night for the NFC South lead, probably are different than mine.
But hey, 'tis the season of sharing.
So here are my suggestions for Rivera:
Bribe the custodian at the Louisiana Superdome to set the air conditioning at 39 degrees and turn on the fire sprinkler system. The Saints obviously don't like dealing with the elements.
Give everyone on the bench party noisemakers. You probably can find a few on Bourbon Street. Quarterback Drew Brees and the New Orleans offense struggled with the Seattle crowd, so maybe the Carolina backups can recreate that scene.
Practice the ol' bounce the ball off the helmet of one receiver for a touchdown to another. The Saints' defense looked completely surprised by that one.
Make Brees hold the ball too long in the pocket, then sack him with that front seven that gets so much attention, force a fumble and return it for a touchdown. I can't draw that one up any clearer.
Don't talk to the officials about eating too much at Thanksgiving as NFL Soundtracks caught you doing for the halftime show. Being nice is not going to get them to pick up another flag on a controversial call.
Let ESPN's "Monday Night Football" analyst Jon Gruden assist with the defensive play calling. Just as he got the words "watch out for the screen to Pierre Thomas'' in the third quarter the Saints ran a screen pass to Pierre Thomas.
Don't let running back Mike Tolbert's head get bigger than his belly after listening to Gruden drool over him. Gruden went straight from saying "beware of the Carolina Panthers'' to "I love Mike Tolbert.''
Remind your defense the Saints' inability to gain 252 yards kept your defense from staying ahead of Seattle as the top-ranked unit in the NFL.
Let Newton and the offense listen to ESPN studio analyst Keyshawn Johnson's pre-game comment. It was something like the Carolina defense is playing well, but the offense is "sputtering.''
If none of these things work, try this:
Sack Brees ... repeatedly.
Cover tight end Jimmy Graham.
Cover running back Darren Sproles.
Do everything else Seattle did.
That's all there is in the notebook. Hope it helps.