By STEVE REED
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- As long as Drew Brees stays healthy, the New Orleans Saints’ offense is going to be just fine.
The defense? Now that’s a concern.
The Saints got pushed around for the second straight week, allowing 463 total yards in a 35-27 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. New Orleans fell to 0-2 for the first time since 2007 and finds itself alone in the NFC South cellar.
They’ve allowed 922 yards and 75 points in two games against young quarterbacks Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III.
"We’re just not playing as good as we want to yet," Saints cornerback Malcolm Jenkins said. "We had high expectations and we’ve worked hard and prepared hard. We’ve got to jell and continue to do the things we need to do to get better. We just have to continue to chip away at this thing."
The Saints will welcome an opportunity to face a team that doesn’t run the zone-read option quite as much next Sunday. They face another 0-2 team when they meet Matt Cassel and the Kansas City Chiefs.
"If you look at our defense, and you look at the two offenses we’ve played, we’ve played the most unconventional offenses in the National Football League," interim coach Aaron Kromer said. "So do we have to do better against those styles of offenses? Yeah, we do. One thing we need to get settled in on is on that style. But we’ve played two good offenses,
Quarterback Drew Brees, who had 325 yards passing and two interceptions, is confident the Saints can turn things around.
"Unfortunately, we’ve done some things in these past two games that have set us back," Brees said. "The important thing is recognizing what those things are. I feel like we have that. Now it’s just a matter of getting the extra break, having things go your way, and getting on a win streak. We’ve done a great job of doing that here in the past."
Running back Pierre Thomas doesn’t blame the slow start on the bounty scandal the Saints endured this past offseason, which resulted in the suspension of coach Sean Payton for the entire season.
"What happened in the offseason, any issues we had, that has nothing to do with this 0-2 start," said Thomas, who had 110 yards on nine carries.
The Saints’ defense had fits with Newton, who threw for 253 yards and ran for a career-high 71 yards.
"Times change," wide receiver Steve Smith said of Carolina’s first win over New Orleans since 2009.
The Panthers tied a club record last week with 10 yards rushing in a loss to Tampa Bay. They had no such problems moving the ball against the Saints. They got the running game going in the second quarter and rolled up 219 yards on the ground and 463 overall.