The challenge in playing the same NFL team three times in the same season is making old things new the third time around.
That was New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton’s quick take Wednesday morning on preparation for Sunday’s playoff game against the Carolina Panthers: If the Saints coaches don’t find some way to confuse Panthers All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly, the Saints will be in trouble at home at the Superdome.
“Luke Kuechly is looking at the same (game) film, just as diligently,” Payton said of the first two games this season against the Panthers, both Saints victories.
Payton said the challenge this time around is to show up with new plays out of the formations Kuechly and the rest of the Panthers defense find familiar. Kuechly has a reputation for being exceptional at recognizing opponent tendencies, often calling out plays to his teammates before the ball is snapped.
“You have to have plays that look the same, but are something different,” Payton said. “He is so good at communicating to (fellow linebackers Thomas) Davis and Shaq” Thompson.
Payton, known as one of the NFL’s top offensive minds, said Kuechly will be able to “yawn” at the Saints’ formations if his staff can’t come up with some play-calling that serves to confuse.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129: @rick_bonnell