Rapid Reaction: Panthers 35, Saints 27

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Thoughts on the Carolina Panthers’ 35-27 victory against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.

What it means: The Panthers are 1-1 and showed signs that their poor performance against Tampa Bay in the opener was a fluke. This time, the Panthers got back to the creative and explosive style of offense they played last season. Their defense was far better than it was last season, when injuries devastated the unit. The Saints are 0-2 and in deep trouble. Their season is far from over, but they’ve dug themselves a deep hole and there isn’t a lot of reason for optimism because the offense and the defense have had very few bright spots.

Rebound of the week: This goes to Carolina offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski. He drew harsh criticism for the debacle in Tampa Bay. Every bit of the criticism was deserved because Chudzinski showed no imagination and failed to get much out of a talented unit. But that all changed against the Saints. Chudzinski got back to making the running game a big part of the offense. That led to openings for the downfield passing game. The reverse to Brandon LaFell in the first half was one of the best play calls I’ve seen so far in this young season.

Rebound of the week, Part II: Carolina receiver Steve Smith got carted off the field with about eight minutes left in the third quarter with an apparent leg injury. Smith came out of the locker room and back onto the field a few minutes later and made a long catch that helped set up a Carolina touchdown.

Fall of the week: Take your pick of either New Orleans interim head coach Aaron Kromer or defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. They both are going to take plenty of heat from Saints fans. I tend to put more blame on Spagnuolo’s defense than anything else. It’s just not working very well so far this season. Makes you wonder if the Saints should have made more offseason personnel moves on their defensive line to better fit Spagnuolo’s scheme. I’ve heard plenty of offenses described as bland through the years. But I think you could call what we’ve seen of Spagnuolo’s defense so far very bland. I also think it would be fair to describe the New Orleans defense as not being very good, and that might be an understatement.

Whatever happened to Marques Colston? He’s been New Orleans’ top receiver since his arrival in 2006. But Colston was barely a factor for much of the day. Give Carolina’s secondary, which includes rookie cornerback Josh Norman, a lot of credit for keeping Colston quiet.

Up to the challenge: Speaking of keeping Colston quiet, you have to give kudos to Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. His unit didn't completely silence Drew Brees, but no defense does that. What Carolina's defense did was put solid pressure on Brees. The Panthers forced some mistakes and made Brees look relatively ordinary. McDermott took lots of heat last year when Carolina's defense was banged up and playing badly. Give the man credit this time for containing one of the league's best offenses -- or at least what used to be one of the league's best offenses.

What’s next: The Panthers have to deal with a very short turnaround, hosting the New York Giants on Thursday night. The Saints return home to play the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.