SAINTS-COWBOYS OBSERVATIONS

The good, bad and ugly from the Saints loss to the Cowboys

Sean Payton had a rough night. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Another Thursday night game for the Saints, no big deal right? WRONG! They lost 13-10 to the Cowboys who are now 7-5 and in control of the lowly NFC East. Here’s how I saw it:

The Good

-The defense came up with pressure and sacked Dak Prescott seven times. Just about every time they blitzed, they came up with a sack or a pressure. On those plays, the coverage was good enough to allow the blitz to get there.

-Sheldon Rankins is having a breakout season. He has seven sacks on the year and is looking more like the guy this team thought he could be. His signature play this game came when he chased down Ezekial Elliot on a draw play for a loss. At 305lbs, that was extremely impressive.

-Cam Jordan is widely recognized as the defense’s best player. But Demario Davis gives him a run for his money. Davis is an all around linebacker that makes plays in every phase of the game.

The Bad

-As good as a coach as Sean Payton has been, he’s had moments in which you question his judgment. Using the two challenges in the first half and not going for the field goal on fourth down on the two yard line were two of the most egregious errors.

-The team had just their 25th punt because of their 15th three and out on the opening drive. Three straight incompletions by Brees, the last one was almost intercepted. He started the game 0 for 4. Too much passing and not enough running to start the game.

-Is it just me, or does Troy Aikman perform verbal sex on the Cowboys every time he broadcasts one of their games? Joe Buck gets in on the act as well. He clearly pulls for them and it gets annoying after a while.

The Ugly

- Eli Apple has been terrible. There’s a reason the former first round pick was traded. He was beat for a 40-yard completion early on that could have gone for a touchdown had he not shoe-string tackled Michael Gallup. He also got called for a couple penalties.

-The 71 game streak of not being shut out in the first half is over. They only gained 59 total yards in the first half. The team looked sloppy and unmotivated. It was as if they kept waiting for something to happen instead of making something happen.

-Sean Payton ultimately cost his team this game with poor play calling and bad challenges too early. His gambling is genius when it works, and crippling when it doesn’t. Piss poor tackling and bad execution aside, Payton was the reason his team lost.

There were a ton of questionable calls made for and against both teams. While the Cowboys played it safe in their gameplan, the Saints chose to gamble a bit too much in theirs. This could possibly cost them homefield advantage in the NFC playoffs if the Rams stay with a one in the loss column. The Saints have some work to do. It starts with praying starting left tackle Terron Armstead is healthy, and head coach Sean Payton decides to stop gambling so much.

 

Saints 36, Bears 25

Saints vs Bears: Good, bad and ugly

New Orleans Saints official Twitter account

The Saints went into Soldier Field and took on the Bears minus several key players. Despite being shorthanded, they easily handled the Bears 36-25. Here are my observations:

The Good

-Michael Thomas did Michael Thomas things (nine catches for 131 yards). But it was Latavius Murray filling in for Alvin Kamara who did the heavy lifting. He ran for 113 yards on 25 carries and two touchdowns. He added five catches for another 31 yards. Murray looked like the 2015 Pro Bowl version of himself.

-The defense was awesome! The Bears went two full quarters between getting a 1st down (2nd to 4th). Not to mention a safety, two fumble recoveries, a blocked punt, two sacks, allowed 17 yards rushing and gave up only 10 points. I know Mitchell Trubisky just returned from a shoulder injury and the Bears offense hasn't gotten more than 300 yards of offense in any game this year, but this was impressive.

-Right tackle Ryan Ramczyk got some praise from the announcers for his play. Not only did he do a good job on Khalil Mack, but they wondered why he hasn't been to a Pro Bowl. Ramczyk has consistently handled himself well against some of the best pass rushers in the league and should see his first Pro Bowl this year.

The Bad

-Right after recovering a fumble and going up 9-0, the special teams gave up a 102-yard kickoff return. Momentum swings like this can deflate one team and ignite another. Far too often the Saints shoot themselves in the foot like this. When they're playing well, they don't give up easy scores after they've scored.

-Kicker Will Lutz had made 35 straight field goals on the road with his first attempt against the Bears. It set a new NFL record. Unfortunately, he missed his next two. One went wide right, the other fell short. It didn't cost the Saints the game, but here's to hoping Lutz gets his mojo back.

-Too many cheap yards given up when the game was already decided. I know when you're up by three or four touchdowns, attention seems to fade. They gave up a final score when Allen Robinson juked rookie Chauncey Gardner-Johnson out his shoes and caught a skinny post for a touchdown. Icing on the cupcake was the Bears' tight end Adam Shaheen caught the two-point conversion over Eli Apple.

The Ugly

-J.T. Gray and Patrick Robinson both left the game in the first quarter. With P.J. Williams serving a two-game suspension, the defense needs defensive backs to stay healthy. The defense has been playing very well over the last month or so. The next couple games could test that. More icing on the cupcake: Apple went down with what looked to be a pretty bad leg injury with under a minute left.

-34 seconds before halftime, the Saints force a punt. Deonte Harris returned it 67 yards for a touchdown, but it was called back because of a holding penalty on Zach Line. I thought the league was going to go easy on ticky tack holding calls? Obviously not as this one took points off the board.

-With 4:33 left in the game and it's clearly over with the Saints up 36-10, Gardner-Johnson stopped Tarik Cohen for a six yard loss after catching a pass. He and Apple proceeded to make height-mocking gestures to Cohen. They weren't flagged, but it was pretty dumb. Two guys who haven't done a damn thing in this league making fun of a guy who made the Pro Bowl and All-Pro team last season is beyond dumb and really pissed me off!

No Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, Jared Cook? And this team won on the road again? Time to stop doubting those who are non-believers. This is arguably the best team in football right now. Most of the credit goes to defensive coordinator Dennis Allen and the defense. They've collectively rallied and turned themselves into the best defensive unit over the last five plus games. Head coach Sean Payton has called plays masterfully. They made Teddy Bridgewater the highest paid backup in the league for a reason. Teddy Two-Gloves is now 5-0 as a starter this year. Brees is trying to come back next week against the Cardinals. I say let him chill until they play the Falcons after the bye week...unless he's healthy. This team will be a real problem once they're all fully healthy down the stretch. The rest of the league is on notice.

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