Saints vs Bengals: Observations

The good, bad and ugly from the Saints win over the Bengals

Drew Brees is having a monster year. John Grieshop/Getty Images

The Who Dat train kept on rolling Sunday with a convincing win over the Bengals. The final score 51-14 was an embarrassing laugher. Here’s how I saw it:

The Good

-Drew Brees might be having his best year at age 39. He’s leading the league in completion percentage, touchdown to interception ratio, and passer rating. He started the game 14 of 15 for 152 yards and two touchdowns. That one incompletion was a throwaway. He ended the game with as many incompletions (three) as touchdowns. MVP?

-Alvin Kamara has played in 25 games and scored 27 touchdowns in his young career (including two today). That type of production is unheard of. Nobody in the history of the league has averaged a touchdown a game. Highly doubt Kamara can keep this up, but it’s one helluva start.

-The pass rush decided to show up today despite rookie end Marcus Davenport being out with a toe injury. They collected four sacks totaling 24 lost yards. If they can keep the pressure up on opposing quarterbacks, the woeful defensive backfield won’t have to cover as long.  

The Bad

- Benjamin Watson dropped a jump pass for a touchdown from Taysom Hill in the second quarter. This was a waste of a play. Not because Watson dropped it, but because it could’ve been saved for a better time than a regular season game against the Bengals.

-Rookie receiver Tre’Quan Smith played, but didn’t get a single target. Instead, newly promoted off the practice squad rookie Keith Kirkwood had two targets and two receptions for 45 yards. Nothing wrong with Kirkwood getting a shot, but I’d like to see Smith more moving forward given the depth issues at the position.

-The field goal to make it 48-7 in the fourth quarter was completely unnecessary! Signed, The Guy Who Had Under 54 Because Of The Cold Weather Game Played Outdoors.

The Ugly

-Starting left tackle Terron Armstead went to the locker sans pads with an apparent shoulder injury. He pancake blocked a Bengal defender and his shoulder landed awkwardly on the guy. If the blindside protection for Brees is hurt for any period of time, it could be crucial to their chances of making a run.

- The same rush defense that held the Rams and Todd Gurley to 92 yards and a 4.8 average gave up 110 yards and a whopping 6.9 average today. It’s the 6.9 average that bothers me. Had this game been closer, the Bengals would’ve run more than 16 times.

-The game was being broadcast on Fox. Sometime in the third quarter with the game out of hand, they decided to switch the feed to Tampa versus Washington, and I was forced to watch the rest of the game via “alternative means.” In the spirit of The Blitz, I say: Hey Fox, BLEEP that!

Forcing the once division-leading Bengals to eat a 50 burger on the road in the cold was impressive. This was the first time since the 2007 Patriots that a team has scored touchdowns on its first five possessions in consecutive games. The win streak is up to eight games now. At 8-1 and leading the charge league-wide, can this team make a Super Bowl run? Can Brees win his first career MVP award to help cement his legacy? Stay tuned!

 

Roughnecks 34, Vipers 27

Roughnecks vs Vipers: Good, bad and ugly

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Saturday night's game between the Houston Roughnecks and the Tampa Bay Vipers had everything you could have hoped for in an XFL game. There was a lot of scoring, five lead changes throughout the game, and even June Jones complaining to the refs caught on tape. Sounds like the perfect XFL game. The Roughnecks were able to outlast the Vipers and remain undefeated to start the season. The winless Vipers put up a good fight, but they were ultimately no match for the Roughnecks' high-powered offense.

The Good

The running game is finally starting to come into fruition. James Butler had his best game as a Roughneck as he rushed for 72 yards and scored on a two-point conversion. The offense stalled to start the game, but midway through the second quarter, Butler had a 30 yard rushing gain which eventually set up a P.J. Walker touchdown run. Butler was able to ignite the offense and Tampa's defense had a hard time stoping him throughout the rest of the game.

For three straight weeks, P.J. Walker has been the best player on the Roughnecks. He continues to shine in the spotlight and looks to have some key improvising skills as well. On two occasions Walker was able to elude tackles for huge gains. One of which was a 35-yard scramble from his own end zone (which we will talk about later), and one was an 84-yard touchdown. Phillips was able to escape a blitz to find a wide open Cam Phillips who took it to the house. The duo of Walker and Phillips could be the best QB-receiver duo in the league.

Speaking of Phillips, last week's XFL's Star of the Week made a good case to reclaim that title Saturday. Phillips added three more touchdowns to bring his season total to eight which is still the most in the XFL. He is showing that he is a leader in the locker room as well. When Wide Receiver Kahlil Lewis was being interviewed, Phillips went by his side telling him they were going to win the game almost in a comforting way. A team with good chemistry can make it far in any league.

This week I'll add two additional points to the "Good" category, for the offense played that well. Throughout the game, Jones and his staff and players made constant adjustments to Jerry Glanville's blitz happy defense. Nothing works every time, all the time, but Walker, Butler, and the receivers used the blitz against the Vipers in an artful display of misdirection and speed. The Roughnecks have scored 99 points so far this season, the most in the XFL. If the three-headed monster of Walker, Butler, and Phillips continue to play this well, the June Jones offense will run and shoot their way to the championship. My last prop is to ESPN for sending A-List reporter Dianna Russini to cover the game from the sidelines. Her professionalism and personality were on full display when she spoke to the players and coaches adding much needed credibility to the broadcast team. Thank you ESPN.

The Bad

The defense continued to play soft in the middle. Adjustments made by Mark Trestman after the second quarter seemed to work, for the Vipers were able to run the ball with ease. They implemented short screens that killed the linebackers and led to incremental gains throughout the second half. Running plays and screens were very effective against the Roughnecks' zone coverage. Luckily, the Roughnecks' offense was able to keep pace and outscore the Vipers offense.

This season, officiating hasn't been a big issue in the XFL. For the most part the games have been called well, and there has not been any disastrous mistakes made by referees. That is until the blatant pass interference that wasn't called against Sammie Coates. In the 3rd quarter, Walker threw a deep ball to Coates in double coverage when Micah Hannemann "made a play on the ball" and ended up in the face of Coates. This disrupted his route and prevented him from making an attempt to catch the ball. It should have been a pass interference without question. This play was almost as bas as the Saints-Rams interference call. (Sorry Saints fans). Even though the Roughnecks still won the game, this was by far the worst call of the season and should be looked at by the league office. Even Coach Jones had something to say about the referee who didn't make the call.

The Ugly

One of the best things about the XFL is being able to hear what the coaches are saying during games to their players, to reporters, and in this instance, what they are saying to referees. Coach Jones referred to the ref as "freaking sorry ass" and stated that "For you not to see contact on that (play), I'm wondering what the hell you are doing in this league." I think the most surprising thing in all of this is that Jones used freaking instead of a different word. Stuff like this does add great entertainment value to watching an XFL game. This wasn't really ugly, but it was too entertaining not to put in this somewhere.

Nick Holly and Sammy Cotes were highly ineffective Saturday. Both players are seemingly being phased out of the offense after having great Week 1 stats. This is understandable as Phillips and Butler have become the focal points on offense for Walker to distrubute the ball. Going forward these two could see their amount of receptions diminish if they don't show signs of improvement as the season progresses.

P.J. Walker's 30+ yard scramble from his own 2-yard line came with a little bit of controversy. Walker was able to elude rushers and pick up a massive first down conversion. At the end if his run, he fell to the ground and got back up to spike the ball thinking he was down and the play was over. No Vipers' player touched him so when he spiked the ball, Tampa played it as a fumble. A Vipers' defender picked up the ball and proceeded to run to the end zone. The officials stopped the game to review the call and determined Walker gave himself up, and that the play was dead. That was a close call, and could have been detrimental to the Roughnecks maintaining their undefeated season. Walker should be more careful when doing crazy things like this.

The Roughnecks look to remain undefeated as they travel to face their in-state rivals The Dallas Renegades. Both teams are coming off an impressive an impressive victory, and are looking forward to the fight for Lone Star supremacy on Sunday March 1st.

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