TAMPA 48, NEW ORLEANS 40

The good, bad and ugly from Saints-Buccaneers

The good, bad and ugly from Saints-Buccaneers
Drew Brees had a big day. Michael C. Hebert, New Orleans Saints team Web site

The New Orleans Saints opened their 2018 season by losing at home to the Tampa Bay Bucs in a shootout 48-40. The game resembled one of those college football games in which last scoring possession wins. Not a good way to open the season for a team that has Super Bowl aspirations. Let’s take a look at some observations:

The Good

-Drew Brees went Drew Brees against a game Tampa defense. Showing no signs of age slowing him down, he went 37 of 45 for 439 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Lots of so-called experts have long predicted Brees’ downfall, or the beginning of it. If today was any indication of what’s to come, Brees will put up video game numbers again this season.

-Michael Thomas is the real deal. Coming into his third season, he’s now seen as one of the league’s top receivers. With 16 catches on 17 targets for 180 yards and a touchdown, he’s proven that he’s not a flash in the pan. Another strong performance this year, and he’ll solidify his top five receiver status, or make an argument for top three for sure.

- Alvin Kamara also made his presence felt catching the football. He had nine catches on 12 targets for 112 yards and a touchdown. With Mark Ingram out, and a bunch of randoms helping fill the void, Kamara will be counted on heavily until Ingram returns from suspension.

The Bad

-One of the randoms helping fill in at running back, Mike Gillislee, fumbled after the Bucs took a 24-17 lead with about four minutes left in first half. The fumble was returned for a touchdown and Tampa was suddenly up 31-17. Backup running backs are a dime a dozen. This was not a good way to endear yourself to your new team, especially after they put a promising rookie on the practice squad in order to sign you.

-For all the good Thomas did receiving the ball, his fumble came when the Saints were down 41-24 and had just gotten into scoring range. Sure a 50+ yard field goal would’ve only cut the lead to 41-27, but it’s the ensuing touchdown Tampa scored after the fumble that made the 48-24 lead too much to overcome.

-The Saints only tallied 43 yards rushing. For a team that averaged about 130 yards per game last year, this was well below the new standard they had set. Sure, Ingram is serving a four-game suspension for PEDs, but that’s no excuse. This team returned five guys on the offensive line that played a significant role in the run game resurgence from last year.

The Ugly

-Speaking of the run game, where in the hell was the balance on offense?!? The Saints attempted 45 passes and only 13 runs. A ratio above 3:1 when it comes to pass/run plays called is not winning football. Unless you’re Mike Leach, then it’s totally acceptable.

-The cornerbacks were supposed to be the deepest and most quality position on a revamped defense. Their man coverage was amongst the best in the league last season after they found their groove. Not today. They were torched by Ryan freaking Fitzpatrick to the tune of 21/28 for 417 yards and four touchdowns. Ken Crawley in particular seemed to be the whipping boy of choice as he routinely gave up big plays. Last year’s Defensive Rookie of the Year Marshon Lattimore was also beaten badly on a go route by Mike Evans for a touchdown.

-No sacks, interceptions, or fumble recoveries and allowing 8/13 third down conversions this game by the defense. That’s a piss-poor stat line for a defense that prides itself on turnovers and getting off the field on third downs. To make matters worse, they only forced one punt all game. This side of the ball must improve if the Saints want to make any major moves this year.

Giving up 48 points in your home opener is a serious blow to a team’s confidence. This was an awful performance, but hopefully it’ll serve as an early season wake up call they need to round into shape. I can’t stress enough the optics of last season’s opening loss to the Vikings. The doom and gloom that came along with it made it appear as if another 7-9 season was looming. They have 15 more games to get it together.

 

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Astros lose to Braves, 6-2. Composite Getty Image.

Reynaldo López struck out seven over six scoreless innings, Orlando Arcia homered and the Atlanta Braves won their third straight, 6-2 over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.

López (2-0) allowed four hits and walked one in his third straight sterling outing to start the season.

“It’s like I’ve always said, for me, the important thing is to focus,” López said through an interpreter. “To have the focus during the outings and then, to be able to locate those pitches.”

He has given up one run in 18 innings for an ERA of 0.50.

“He threw the ball really well against a really good hitting club,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “Another solid one.”

Arcia hit a solo home run to left in the second and a sacrifice fly in the seventh.

Luis Guillorme and backup catcher Chadwick Tromp each hit a two-run double in the ninth to put the Braves ahead 6-0.

“Tromp has done a good job ever since we’ve been bringing him in these situations and filling in,” Snitker said. “I’ve got all the confidence in the world in him back there. ... He’s an aggressive hitter. He’s knocked in some big runs for us in the limited time that he’s played.”

Kyle Tucker homered for the Astros leading off the ninth against Aaron Bummer, and Mauricio Dubón had a two-out RBI single to cut the lead to four. After Bummer walked Chas McCormick to put two on, Raisel Iglesias induced a groundout by Victor Caratini to end it and secure his fourth save.

“They pitched well, and our guys are grinding out at-bats,” Houston manager Joe Espada said. “Even in the ninth inning there, we’re grinding, fighting until the end.”

Hunter Brown (0-3) yielded two runs on five hits with three strikeouts and three walks in six innings. Brown allowed nine runs in two-thirds of an inning in his previous start, last Thursday against Kansas City.

Brown said he executed better Tuesday than he had in his previous two starts.

“He mixed all his pitches well,” Espada said. “The breaking ball was effective. He threw some cutters in on the hands to some of those lefties. He mixed his pitches really well. That was a really strong performance.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Braves: 2B Ozzie Albies was placed on the 10-day injured list with a broken right big toe. IF David Fletcher had his contract selected from Triple-A Gwinnett to take Albies’ place on the roster.

Astros: RHP Justin Verlander (right shoulder inflammation) threw a side session Tuesday, but Houston will wait until Wednesday to see how Verlander feels before deciding whether he will make his first start this weekend against the Nationals, Espada said. ... RHP Luis Garcia (right elbow surgery) threw around 20-25 pitches off the bullpen mound, and RHP José Urquidy (right forearm strain) also threw off the mound, Espada said. ... LHP Framber Valdez (left elbow soreness) played catch off flat ground.

UP NEXT

Atlanta LHP Max Fried (1-0, 8.74 ERA) starts Wednesday in the series finale opposite RHP J.P. France (0-2, 8.22).

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