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New Orleans Saints coach hails Panthers' defensive strength

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New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton has extolled the virtues of the Carolina Panthers' defensive strength ahead of the two team's crucial showdown this weekend.

Both the Saints and the Panthers share identical 10-4 winning records after the Saints' shock defeat against the St. Louis Rams last weekend.

Payton's men were able to blast a hole in the Panthers' defensive line to secure a big win at the Superdome when the two teams met earlier this month.

On that rare off-night for the Panthers defence, the Saints made 382 yards - way above their current yards conceded average of 296.3, which is the second best record in the NFL behind the Seattle Seahawks.

Key to the Panthers fine defensive record this season is the work of Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy - the former has a team-leading nine sacks this season.

Payton says his team have been made aware of the defensive strength the Panthers posses, and says breaking their line of scrimmage down will be the key to the Saints winning the game.

"They [Johnson and Hardy] have very good bursts and quickness and then when you combine that with power the elite rushers have that edge speed, but they also can convert at the power, then you find yourself setting for speed and then having to deal with the transitional rush," he told the Saints' official website.

"Both of those guys do that extremely well. When you look at their hurry and sack totals, they come from both of those elements as well as the inside rush.

"It is different when you have a guy that does one of those two things, but when they do both of them well like these guys do, then it becomes problematic.”

With the teams going head to head on Sunday, the winner will be in pole position to claim top spot in the NFC South and a place in the divisional round with just one more game of the regular season to follow.

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Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints

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