Saints vs Falcons 2: Observations

Good, bad and ugly: The Saints ate Falcon for Thanksgiving dinner

The Saints are an unstoppable force. Michael C Hebert Saints website

The Saints continue to steamroll opponents. They cooked the Falcons for Thankgiving dinner in a 31-10 win for their 10th consecutive win. Here’s my take on how it went down:

The Good

-Drew Brees is known for spreading the love. He threw touchdown passes to four different guys who have a combined five years of experience including this year. Receiver depth isn’t an issue when Brees throws touchdown passes around like Mardi Gras beads. Did I mention all four guys were undrafted?

-The defense stepped up big time. They forced three fumbles and got a pick. Every fumble was forced with the Falcons in the red zone and the pick set up a touchdown to put them up by 21. Those are turnovers I call winning plays because they take points off the board.

-Sheldon Rankins is coming into his own. He’s “Great Value” Aaron Donald when he’s on (and a 1st round bust when he’s not). His inside spin move in the second quarter to pressure Matt Ryan into a sack by Cam Jordan was nasty! The move is something you see defensive ends execute when their first step is outside, but they plant and turn inside before the guard can blink. My fellow nerds who study the game will feel me on this one.

The Bad

-Brees threw only his second pick of the season in the first quarter. What’s worse is the refs missed defensive holding and pass interference on the receiver he was throwing to.

-Backup tight end Dan Arnold dropped a sure touchdown catch on 3rd & 2 from the four yard line in the second quarter. Saints had to settle for a field goal. The 6’6 Arnold is the closest thing Brees has had to Jimmy Graham at the position since Graham was traded to the Seahawks. He has to be a reliable target in the red zone.

-Falcon receivers continue to give Saints defensive backs fits. The pass rush rattled Matt Ryan and got six sacks, but the DBs need to step it up. 377 receiving yards (314 by Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Mohamed Sanu) given up was a blemish on what was an otherwise good defensive performance.  

The Ugly

-Sean Payton used a timeout early in the third quarter in what most thought was an attempt to get the right play called. Instead, Brees tried to draw the Falcons offsides, failed, and they took the delay of game penalty then punted. If you’re going to call the timeout, run a play dammit!

-Couple times this game the play clock went to zeroes and no flag was thrown. Delay of game could’ve been called on both teams. I bitch about the refs a lot and I acknowledge they have a tough job, but delay of game penalties can be called by any idiot with half-decent eyesight.

-In the Gow Media Pick Em challenge, my NFL pick was the over 60.5 in this game because the Saints have been on a roll. When the Saints played the Bengals, I took the under 53.5 because the weather was supposed to play a factor. I’ll start going oppo of whatever my head says when picking a Saints game.

The Saints are the best team in football. There, I said it. I’ve been hesitant to say so until I saw a more complete performance from the defense on a consistent basis. Their last three games holding opponents under 20 points, causing turnovers, getting sacks, and maintaining their top five rush defense has been just as impressive as their offensive counterparts. This team has a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

 

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Houston's offense once again obliterated Baltimore in Wednesday's finale. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Owners of a nine-game winning streak, the Astros tried to keep the train rolling to make it double digits and complete the three-game sweep of the Orioles in Baltimore. Not only would they get the win, but they also did it by dominating on both sides of the ball again in a one-sided shutout.

Final Score: Astros 13, Orioles 0

Astros' Record: 46-28, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (6-3)

Losing Pitcher: Thomas Eshelman (0-1)

Houston keeps mashing

Unlike Tuesday's game which ended 3-1 in a much closer affair, the finale on Wednesday was once again a lopsided affair like Monda's opener, favoring the Astros. Houston once again put up double-digit runs in an offensive explosion. It started right off the bat, with three runs scoring in the top of the first on a two-RBI double by Carlos Correa and an RBI single by Kyle Tucker to grab a 3-0 lead.

Yuli Gurriel extended it to 4-0 with a two-out RBI single in the second, then Jose Altuve made it a six-run game with a two-run blast in the top of the fourth. Michael Brantley joined in with an RBI single in the top of the sixth, then Yordan Alvarez led off a four-run seventh with a solo bomb before a three-run homer by Abraham Toro made it 11-0.

Urquidy cruises through seven scoreless

Jose Urquidy was cruising all the while, allowing just three baserunners over that span, a double to start his night, which he erased, then a one-out walk in the second and leadoff single in the sixth. He returned at the bottom of the seventh with a manageable pitch count, where he'd erase a one-out single to keep Baltimore scoreless. With the insurmountable lead, he'd be given the rest of the night off. His final line: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 84 P.

Astros complete the sweep and grab tenth straight win

Chas McCormick, who came off the bench defensively in the bottom of the seventh, made it a twelve-run lead with a one-out solo homer in the top of the eighth, then later Abraham Toro notched his fourth RBI with a run-scoring single to make it 13-0. Brandon Bielak took over for Urquidy in the bottom of the eighth, and after loading the bases with no outs, was able to escape with a strikeout and double play.

Ralph Garza Jr. was Houston's third pitcher, wrapping things up at the bottom of the ninth. He erased a one-out walk and a single with a double play to end the game, giving Houston the three-game sweep and extending their winning streak to ten games as they continue to look like baseball's best team.

Up Next: The next stop on this road trip for Houston is Detroit, where they will kick off a four-game set with the Tigers on Thursday at 6:10 PM Central. The pitching matchup for the opener will be Luis Garcia (5-4, 2.82 ERA) for Houston and Jose Urena (2-7, 5.79 ERA) for Detroit.

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