Saints vs Rams: Observations

The good, bad and ugly from the Saints 45-35 win over the LA Rams

Drew Brees celebrated another Saints win. Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Despite not being flexed into the Sunday Night Football slot, this was by far the game of the week. It didn’t disappoint as the Saints pulled it out with a 45-35 win. After 1,00 yards plus of offense, here’s how I saw things:

The Good

-The run defense came into this game ranked No. 1 in the league. Figured to be put to the ultimate test against the Rams’ Todd Gurley, they more than held their own. Gurley was held to 68 yards rushing and one touchdown. The Rams as a team only managed 92 yards rushing. Maybe that stat isn’t due to them being so terrible in pass defense after all. Meanwhhile, Alvin Kamara played a better game for the Saints.

-Drew Brees and Michael Thomas is as lethal a pass/catch combo as there is in the league today. They have an unreal 80%-plus completion rate when Thomas is targeted. Thomas ended the game with a team record 211 yards receiving on 12 catches off 15 targets and a touchdown, which turned out to be the game sealing score.

-Major props go to the Saints’ offensive line. Not only did they give Brees a clean pocket to work with, but they also out-muscled the Rams’ vaunted defensive line in the run game. That isn’t an easy feat considering Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh are on that line.

The Bad

-Balance is the name of the game when it comes to carry distribution. Unfortunately, Alvin Kamara carried the load yet again with 19 carries. Mark Ingram had nine, Brees had four, and Taysom Hill had two. This teams works best when Ingram shares the load more with Kamara, and when Hill can be more of a factor as well. Kamara has proved to be durable, but he’s too important to risk getting hurt.

-Ingram’s second quarter fumble could have turned the tide. Turnovers like this can be backbreakers by giving teams an extra possession inside the red zone. Fortunately the Rams turned over on downs after attempting a fake field goal. Ingram appeared to hurt his elbow on the play as well.

-The defense didn’t force a punt until 4:50 left in the game. The only time the Rams were stopped was on the failed field goal fake, and a missed field goal. Yes this is the consensus best team in the NFC, but NO PUNTS?!?

The Ugly

-The secondary continues to give up chunk plays. A 33 yard pass led to Rams first touchdown and a 48 yard pass to former Saint Brandin Cooks led to their second score. The ineptness of the pass rush, everyone not named Cameron Jordan or Sheldon Rankins, has contributed to this all season.

-This team continues to relax at the wrong moments. With 26 seconds before halftime, they gave up a field goal. When the Rams got the ball to start the second half, they gave up their first two third down conversions en route to a touchdown. That 21-0 run tied the game. On the offenses only two possessions in that run, they gained a total of 50 yards and punted twice.

- Jared Goff went 28 of 40 for 391 yards, three touchdowns, one pick, and didn’t get sacked. The pick took an unbelievably athletic play by linebacker Alex Anzalone, otherwise it likely would’ve been another completion. The Saints can’t continue this pace of giving up 300-400 yards passing on 70% completion to opposing teams.

At 7-1 and in control of home field advantage in the NFC, it's a great place to be. Especially when you start the season losing 48-40 at home to division rival Tampa. There were certainly some plays that could have swung this game either way. The Saints simply did a better job of managing their mistakes and capitalizing on risks. Special shoutout to Michael Thomas for paying tribute to all-time Saints great Joe Horn with his touchdown celebration.

 

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Houston gets the lopsided win

Valdez, Astros dominate the Angels in 10-0 rout in Anaheim

Framber Valdez was dominant against the Angels on Monday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

With a series win at home over the weekend, the Astros started their final regular-season road trip on Monday, squaring off against the Angels in Anaheim. They held the momentum firmly in their favor all night, dominating both sides of the game to start the series with a victory.

Final Score: Astros 10, Angels 0

Astros' Record: 89-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (11-5)

Losing Pitcher: Jaime Barria (2-4)

Siri leads off with a bang

With Jose Altuve being given the night off, Houston gave Jose Siri a shot at the leadoff spot, and he delivered to start the opener in Anaheim. He launched a missile to left field, 426 feet, to put the Astros in front 1-0 before the Angels could record an out. Later that same inning, they strung together three singles, the third being an RBI by Carlos Correa to double the lead.

Valdez goes seven shutout innings

That gave Framber Valdez a lead to work with as he stepped on the rubber in the bottom of the inning, and he didn't give it up as he would post a dominant start. He started with a 1-2-3 first, worked around a couple of singles in the second, then used a double play to face the minimum in the third.

He retired Los Angeles in order again in the fourth, stranded a two-out single in the fifth and a single and a walk in the sixth. He had his worst inning of the night in the seventh, giving up a leadoff single then loading the bases on back-to-back two-out walks. He'd escape the jam, though, keeping the shutout alive and finalizing his impressive line: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 98 P.

Astros take the opener in lopsided fashion

Houston tacked on an insurance run in the top of the eighth, getting a one-out double by Correa to set up an RBI single by Marwin Gonzalez, pushing the lead to 3-0. Things escalated from there, as another single put two on base for Martin Maldonado, who blew the game open with a three-run homer to make it a six-run lead.

Brooks Raley took over for Valdez in the bottom of the inning, and with a 1-2-3 inning, made it his eighth appearance in a row without allowing a run. The Astros didn't let up in the top of the ninth, getting two hits and a walk to load the bases before a grand slam by Gonzalez made it 10-0 and gave him 5 RBI in a two-inning span. Seth Martinez, called up by the Astros earlier in the day, made his big-league debut in the bottom of the ninth and closed out the lopsided win to put Houston's magic number at 6.

Up Next: The second of this four-game set will be another 8:38 PM Central start on Tuesday. Jose Urquidy (7-3, 3.38 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros, going opposite Packy Naughton (0-2, 4.32 ERA) for the Angels.

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