SAINTS 20, BROWNS 18

Saints vs Browns: Observations from Jermaine Every

Michael Thomas had another big game. Michael C. Hebert, team website

Another week, another wild and crazy Saints game. This time they were able to pull off a win and avoid going 0-2 for the first time since the 2013 season. Winning at home 21-18 over the hapless Cleveland Browns should feel like a loss, especially since they needed help from the opposing team’s kicker to do so. More on that later. Let’s take a look at some observations from the game:

The Good

- Alvin Kamara is the weapon Sean Payton has been looking for since Darren Sproles left town. He’s the type of running back that makes Payton’s offense tick. Kamara is not only catches the ball and runs routes like a wide receiver, but he breaks tackles as if he’s much larger than his 215-pound frame. Quarterbacks are always labeled as dual-threat. It’s time running backs use the label. He had a total of 99 yards on 19 touches today.

-Michael Thomas now has 28 catches on the season after totaling 12 today. “On Pace Guy” would say he’s on pace for 224 catches for 2,152 yards and 24 touchdowns this season. Perhaps most impressive is the fact that teams know Drew Brees is looking for him. He and Kamara will make regular appearances in this section for years to come.

- Brees is slowly closing in on several all-time passing records. He’s now 814 yards away from the career passing yards mark, and 47 touchdowns away from that career mark. He’ll most likely reach the yardage mark within the next few weeks and the touchdown mark possibly next season. Oh…and his completion percentage this year sits at a whopping 81.25% after going 28 for 35 today.

The Bad

-Fumbling is an issue. Thomas fumbled for ther second game in a row while the team was mounting a drive. Tedd Ginn Jr also fumbled. His came on a third down catch that was five yards short of the first down marker.

- Manti Te’o is a solid tackler and appears to have a good grasp on the defensive calls. However, he is painfully slow. He read and reacted to Carlos Hyde’s touchdown run properly, but was too slow getting there. Athletic playmaking linebackers are something this defense needs. Hopefully Alex Anzalone and Demario Davis can fill that need.

- Ken Crawley got burned for a 47-yard touchdown on fourth and five. The Saints were up 18-12 after gaining control following a Marcus Williams interception and another Thomas touchdown catch. He was too busy looking into the backfield and Antonio Callaway ran right by him. The fact that there was no safety help over the top doesn’t matter. This has been two games in a row he’s been burned deep.

The Ugly

-Three times Brees was sacked from Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi (although one was wiped out because of illegal contact). Pressure up the middle is a quarterback’s worst nightmare. With Brees, it’s even more critical because of his height. This offensive line had its hands full and will continue to do so if this continues.

-Tyler Lutz missed a 44-yard field goal when the game was tied at three. This came on the heels of stopping the Browns on a fourth down conversion. The Saints continue to compound their issues by not capitalizing on advantageous plays and situations. This was something they did last year when they went on a run to make playoffs.

-Browns kicker Zaine Gonzalez missed two extra points and two field goals, including the potential game-tying 52-yarder. With all of that going on, the Saints still only won by a measly three points when they entered the game as 10-point favorites.  

This victory was ugly. A win is a win in the NFL. This isn’t like that weird hockey stat that counts overtime/shootout losses. However, the Saints avoided going 0-2 which bodes well for their playoff hopes. There are several things they need to fix. The defense looked marginally better, but still has issues. There is talent on that side of the ball and Dennis Allen will get it figured out. The offense looked discombobulated. Payton will have to go back to the drawing board, but he has to figure out how to protect Brees better than they did today. Ugly wins should be a tiebreaker stat when determining playoff teams and seeding. Embrace the weird stats.

 

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Walter will host The Night of Champions. Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images.

In 2014, Austin Walter rushed for 2,704 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior at Crosby High School. Despite falling short of a state title, Walter was named District 19-4A MVP and finished his prep career with a little over 6,000 rushing yards on 613 carries (6,062 yds). Seven years later, Walter will be returning to his high school alma mater to give back to the community that laid the foundation for an NFL career as a member of the San Francisco 49ers.

"It's a blessing to be able to come from a small town and be one of the guys who made it out," Walter said. "Not a lot of people made it to the NFL or the NBA from Crosby High School. To be one of the first, it's an amazing feeling. It's a blessing and an honor."

On Thursday, April 15, Walter will host The Night of Champions to benefit the Crosby High School Booster Club from 6-9 p.m. The event will be a weight lifting competition at Crosby High School for student-athletes around the area to showcase their talents and abilities.

In addition to hosting a weight lifting showcase, Walter will also share his life teachings with student-athletes in attendance. Perseverance and not taking no for an answer will be one of the most vital messages the Crosby native will share with aspiring pro-athletes. It's the two virtues Walter has leaned on from little league football to the NFL. And as an undrafted prospect in 2019, it was that same morale that helped him outshine six other running backs during the 49ers rookie training camp that same year.

"Before I started playing football in high school, a lot of people thought I was too small," Walter said. "They thought because we played little league and not in middle school we would not make it in high school. My twin brother [Ashton Walter] and I did not listen to that. We just kept pushing forward."

"When I left Rice, people thought I was going to play in the Canadian league or AFF, and I did not take no for an answer. I believed in myself. And I believed in God. And if I can make it out of a small town like Crosby, anybody can make it...It's the mentality I've had my entire life of not quitting. I feel like that is what got me to the point I am at right now."

Whether their life goal is to play in the NFL or not, Walter's primary objective for The Night of Champions is to be an inspiration and show kids they can find success despite their environment. It is one of the things the former XFL running back (Dallas Renegades) wished he would have seen growing up in Crosby.

After graduating from Crosby High School, Walter went on to have a record-breaking collegiate career at Rice University. He became one of two players in school history to rush for over 1,500 yards (1,744 yds.) and 1,000 kick return yards (1,548 yds.) in four seasons with the Owls. In February, Walter signed a one-year contract extension to re-join the 49ers ahead of the 2021 NFL season.

Click here to learn more about The Night of Champions at Crosby High School or support Walter and the Crosby High School Booster Club.

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