No defensive changes from first meeting

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers don't plan any personnel changes or groupings from the first game against the New Orleans Saints, a 31-13 loss two weeks ago at the Superdome.

The focus has been on shoring up breakdowns in execution that the coaches still believe was largely responsible for quarterback Drew Brees passing for 313 yards and four touchdowns.

Here's a look at what the Saints did compared to the rest of Carolina's schedule against the league's No. 2 defense:

Points: 31 against a defense that is giving up an average of 13.6 per game.

Touchdown passes: Four against a unit that has given up only 10 to 13 other opponents, less than one a game.

Yards per game: 373 against a unit that is allowing 290.4 a game.

Turnovers forced: None compared to 27, an average of 2.0 per game.

Sacks: Two compared to 43, an average of 3.3 per game.

"It's overall performance," said defensive end Greg Hardy of what the Panthers (10-4) must change in a game that likely will decide the NFC South title. "We've got to bring a new effort, we've got to bring new consistency, new covering ability, new tackling ability, new rush ability."

  • Wide receiver Steve Smith participated in Friday's practice after sitting out on Thursday with a dislocated finger. Coach Ron Rivera isn't worried the finger will be a problem catching, joking that Smith still has one good hand.

    "Steve will find a way, believe me," Rivera said.

  • The weather forecast for Sunday is for temperatures in the lower 70s with a 60 to 90 percent chance of rain, mostly in the form of thunderstorms.

    "Well, hopefully it would affect them adversely and be positive for us," Rivera said of a New Orleans team that has struggled outside the ideal conditions of the Superdome.

    Seriously, he added, "We're going to do what we do, and they're going to do what they do. Now if it become as really sloppy situation, it could change things."