Saints 46, 49ers 48

Saints vs 49ers: Good, bad and ugly

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In a battle of NFC heavyweights, the Saints and 49ers had a shootout. They combined for 94 points and almost 1,000 combined yards. Here are my observations:

The Good

-Michael Thomas continues to assault the record books. With another 12 catches for 134 yards and a touchdown, he now has 121 catches for 1303 yards and seven touchdowns. He's now 23 catches away from breaking Marvin Harrison's record for catches in a season.

-Drew Brees had another one of his future Hall of Fame-worthy performances with 29/40 for 349 yards and five touchdowns. The 49ers did their best to frustrate him and the Saints offense, but in a game like this, Brees kept his team in the game with his trademark accuracy.

-Deonte Harris is one of those players that makes things happen. His first three kick/punt returns totaled 107 yards and he had a rush for eight yards. Sean Payton called Harris could be the best return man in the league. So far, ge's proving him correct.

The Bad

-The coverage down the field was astrocious. Jimmy Garoppolo completed 10 of his first 11 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns. There was even a trick play in which Ryan Mostert caught a touchdown pass from Emmanuel Sanders. This took place in the first half! The 49ers ended up averaging 8.2 yards per play.

-First lost fumble for the Saints all year led to a go ahead 49er touchdown. Alvin Kamara had the ball poked out deep inside Saints territory when they were up 30-28. That was the only turnover for the Saints, but it was very costly.

-The defense not only couldn't cover, they couldn't stop the run either. They gvae up 162 yards on the ground. Run defense has been their calling card this season. Well, they sure didn't answer that call today.

The Ugly

-Sean Payton's aggressiveness can sometimes be a hinderance. I disagree with the two-point conversion attempt after the second touchdown. Unnecessary two-point attempts can come back to haunt you. Plus it showed a play they could've saved for another situation. They went into halftime down by one and ended up losing because of it. Had they kicked that extra point and the one in the 4th quarter with 53 seconds left, they could've won or at least gone into overtime.

-Two times on 3rd downs on a 49er drive in the 4th quarter C.J. Gardner-Johnson was called for penalties that extended the drive and ultimately led to a touchdown. The personal foul penalty was horse shit! If a receiver changes his body position and a defender is already closing in, how the hell is he supposed to be responsible for hitting a guy in the helmet?!? The Saints lead the league in 3rd down penalties and 3rd down penalties that result in 1st downs.

-Jared Cook left the game with a concussion after catching his second touchdown. On the catch, he was hit in the head and immediately went limp. It hurt the offense because he looked to have been in the game plan to make big plays. He didn't return to the game.

This was a great game. However, coming up short because of stupid penalties, miscommunications on defense, and getting overly aggressive with an early two-point conversion that went awry will cost you close games. Fortunately for the Saints, all these mistakes are correctable. Unfortunately, the stupid penalties have been an ongoing theme this season. Marcus Williams' facemask on George Kittles' 39 yard catch to set up the game winning field goal made a potential 40 plus yard field goal a 30 yarder. The Saints now have almost no hope for homefield advantage in the NFC. They need to concentrate on winning out. They have the Colts, Titans, and Panthers left.

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Houston is back in the win column

McCullers Jr. spins a gem as Astros get a much-needed win over Giants

Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

After getting swept by the A's in Oakland to end a road trip with a five-game losing streak, the Astros returned to Houston to try and get back on track. To do so, they'd need a win against the Giants on Monday night. Here is a quick recap of the series opener:

Final Score: Astros 6, Giants 4.

Record: 7-9, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (2-1, 6.10 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Logan Webb (1-1, 2.81 ERA).

Houston builds up an early lead

The early goings of Monday's game went very similar to the last time Lance McCullers Jr. took the mound. He would have a terrific first three innings while his offense gave him an early lead. The first run came in the bottom of the second, with Yuli Gurriel reaching base on a one-out double, moving to third on a wild pitch, then scoring on an RBI-single by Carlos Correa.

Correa would take part in a four-run inning in the third, as Houston would score two on a two-RBI ground-rule double by Michael Brantley, another on an error, then Correa's second RBI of the night, a groundout to bring in a run and make it 5-0. Unlike the last start in Arizona, where the roof opened and McCullers Jr. fell apart in the fourth, he was able to make quick work of his opponent for a 1-2-3 frame. As he kept recording scoreless innings, Martin Maldonado added another run to the lead with a one-out solo home run in the bottom of the sixth, making it 6-0.

McCullers Jr. takes a no-hitter into the seventh

While the Astros were building their lead, McCullers Jr. was spinning a gem on the mound. He allowed just one baserunner through the first six innings, which came on a hit-by-pitch. He entered the seventh with a no-hitter in progress, but the Giants would get their first hit of the night to end the no-hit bid.

Regardless, the start was precisely what McCullers Jr. needed to restore his confidence after the disastrous inning he had in his last appearance. He would go on to complete the seventh inning before Houston would go to the bullpen with the large lead in the eighth. His final line: 7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K 0 HR, 1 HPB.

Houston gets back in the win column despite more struggles by Josh James

Josh James entered out of the bullpen for the top of the eighth but allowed the first run of the night for San Francisco via a solo home run with one out to make it 6-1. He would complete the inning and then return for the top of the ninth. He would have another rocky inning, issuing a leadoff walk before a single and double would make it a four-run game at 6-2, still with no outs in the inning and runners on second and third, prompting another call to the bullpen.

Dusty Baker would bring in his current closer, Ryan Pressly, to try and finish the game, now in a save situation. Pressly would retire the first two batters he faced before allowing a two-RBI single to make it 6-4, but would eventually get the final out to get Houston the much-needed win. With the victory, the Astros moved back into second place in the AL West standings.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will start Tuesday at 8:10 PM Central. The Giants, working with a fluid rotation, have not yet fully decided on their starter, while the Astros will get another start from Brandon Bielak (2-0, 0.87 ERA) who will look to repeat the success of his five-inning, no-run start in Arizona last week.

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