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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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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