CHARLOTTE -- As good as New Orleans' passing game has been, the Carolina pass defense can nearly match them number for number.
Heading into this weekend's game, the Saints are the league's top passing offense and second in total offense. The Panthers are second against the pass and third overall.
"They're the two offense and we're the three defense, so something's got to break," coach John Fox said. "We've played very well against them defensively. Even last year in the 31-6 game, that one was a little bit like Tampa Bay where we were playing giveaway as far as turnovers. It will be a great challenge and it will be a good matchup."
Since the NFC South was formed in 2002, seven of the 12 Panthers-Saints matchups have been decided by less than a touchdown.
But this one's going to be especially interesting to watch strengths collide. With an explosive pass-catching back in Reggie Bush (who Fox has taken to comparing to Marshall Faulk), and the expected return of receiver Marques Colston and tight end Jeremy Shockey, the Panthers' deep secondary is going to be stretched to the max. When asked what makes the Saints passing game so good, Fox replied: "They've got excellent players doing it."
The same might be said of the Panthers' pass defense.
"They're solid," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said of the Panthers' secondary. "They have two very good corners, some pretty accurate safeties and obviously a pretty good front four that is able to get pressure on the quarterback. You know that can also help the secondary as well.
"We have our work cut out for us here. We're going to have to be able to protect, and obviously when we get opportunities down the field, take advantage of them, but then be ready to kind of take what they give us and be patient and all those things."
• INJURY UPDATE: Even though both center Ryan Kalil and right tackle Jeff Otah did some practicing Wednesday and none Thursday, Fox wasn't ready to refer to either as having a setback.
As to the rest of the report, wide receiver D.J. Hackett (sprained MCL) was out again, while receiver Muhsin Muhammad (knee) and linebackers Thomas Davis (ankle) and Adam Seward (thigh) were able to practice fully after being limited Wednesday.
• NOT ANY MORE: Quarterback Jake Delhomme will always have a bond with the Saints, having begun his career (sort of) there, but he said the special feeling he gets for games against his old club has ebbed.
Delhomme was there from 1997 through 2002. The only players on the current club he worked with are long snapper Kevin Houser, running back Deuce McAllister and defensive end Charles Grant.
"You know what, it's not," Delhomme replied when asked if it was still special. "I don't mean to sound that way. In the first year or two, absolutely. You know, you want to go up, that's the team you're playing for, or played with I should say, I didn't play for them basically. You want it, (but) it's not the same coaching staff, and besides Charles Grant and Deuce McAllister and Kevin Houser the deep snapper, I don't think I played with any other one of those guys."