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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Boston's two grand slams in the first two innings were too much for Houston to overcome in ALCS Game 2. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a win in ALCS Game 1 that had the prototypical fingerprints of this Astros team all over it, Houston returned to Minute Maid Park on Saturday, hoping to take a dominant 2-0 series lead if they could grab another victory. The Red Sox dashed those hopes very early, though, scoring eight runs across the first two innings to build the lead they would hold on to even the series.

Final Score: Boston 9, Astros 5

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): tied 1-1

Winning Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Houston met with disaster to start Game 2

You couldn't have drawn up a much better start for the Red Sox or a worse one for the Astros in Saturday's ALCS Game 2. Luis Garcia met early disaster in the top of the first inning, allowing a leadoff double, then got two outs while issuing two walks to load the bases. That brought up Boston's designated hitter, J.D. Martinez, to the plate, and he delivered a crushing blow to Houston, launching a grand slam to put the Red Sox up 4-0 before Houston could even get to the plate.

After a scoreless bottom of the inning by his offense, things got worse for Garcia in the top of the second, as after issuing a four-pitch walk to start the frame, he would become the center of a meeting at the mound with trainers, ultimately leaving the game with an injury. Houston opted to bring in Jake Odorizzi for the emergency call to the bullpen, but things did not start well for him either. He would put two of his own batters on base with two singles, then gave up the second grand slam in as many innings, this one to Rafael Devers to double Boston's lead to 8-0, doubling down on Houston's disastrous start to the game.

Odorizzi rebounded with a 1-2-3 third, but with one out in the top of the fourth allowed a solo homer to Kiké Hernández, his third homer of the series so far. He would still get the job done of eating up a few innings, finishing the fourth, and retiring Boston in order in the fifth, giving Houston just four more innings to cover with the rest of their relievers.

Astros get a few runs back

Over that span, Houston did trim the lead by three runs, getting an RBI double by Kyle Tucker and a two-RBI single by Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the fourth, making it a six-run game at 9-3. Their next reliever was Blake Taylor in the top of the sixth, and he would keep the score where it stood by sitting down the three batters he faced that frame.

The Astros threatened again in the bottom of the sixth, getting two singles to put two aboard, but would come out empty, sending the game on to the seventh, where Taylor would remain on the mound. He faced three more batters, getting two out while allowing a single before Yimi Garcia would come in to get the third out.

Red Sox even the series as it shifts to Boston

Garcia returned in the top of the eighth, getting through that inning despite a walk and hit by pitch, stranding both runners. Boston's bullpen kept Houston from getting any closer in the bottom of the eighth, then Ryne Stanek came in for the Astros in the top of the ninth. Stanek allowed a leadoff double, but with a groundout and double play, held the score at 9-3. Yuli Gurriel and Jason Castro did their part to keep the Astros alive in the bottom of the ninth, each hitting solo homers to make it 9-5, but that's as close as they'd come, dropping Game 2 to tie the series at one game apiece.

Up Next: The ALCS now moves to Boston for the next three games after a day off on Sunday, with Game 3 on Monday at 7:08 PM Central. While the Astros have named Jose Urquidy as their starter, the Red Sox have not yet determined theirs.

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