Saints 34, Bucs 17

Saints vs. Bucs 2: Good, bad and ugly

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The Saints got back in the win column by dominating a lesser talented division rival this week. Here's what I thought of the Saints' move to 8-2:

The Good

-Michael Thomas and Drew Brees are perhaps the most prolific quarterback-wide receiver duo in the league. Brees was 28/35 for 228 yards and three touchdowns, while Thomas had eight catches for 114 yards and a touchdown. Thomas is still leading the league in receptions and yards, despite Brees missing a chunk of the season.

-The defense came up big depite giving up over 300 yards. They had two sacks, four interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), and limited the Bucs to only 36 yards rushing. After last week's performance against the Falcons, it was important for the defense to step up.

-Sean Payton made a concerted effort to get Alvin Kamara the ball. Whether it was rushing, receiving, or on returns, Kamara was heavily involved in the gameplan. 26 total touches for 155 yards altogether.

The Bad

-Giving up 313 yards passing to Jameis Winston and the Bucs was terrible. Sure Marson Lattimore was out this game, but this defense has too much talent to give up that many yards through the air.

-Speaking of giving up passing yards, Cameron Brate had 10 catches for 73 yards. Tight ends haven't really been a problem for the Saints, but it was today. Moving forward, they need to do better about giving up the easy stuff underneath, especially to tight ends.

-The longest run recorded was a 14-yarder by Kamara. The team only totaled 109 yards on the ground, which is uncharacteristic of them since they committed to the run more a few years ago. They are used to averaging upwards of 130 yards a game on the ground.

The Ugly

-I think it may be time to invest high picks on linebackers. The current linebackers on the roster are pretty good, but the only real playmaker is Demario Davis, who's already 30. Where's the young playmakers at linebacker? There are none. Hopefully Alex Anzalone can turn into something.

-As I mentioned earlier, Marshon Lattimore missed this game. Some of the guys that filled in lately, such as CJ Gardner-Johnson, have done an okay job at best. There's no replacing one of the better young cover corners in the game. Gardner-Johnson had a couple rookie mistakes, but looks like he'll be a player, just not yet.

-Speaking of young guys needing to step up, I sure hope Marcus Davenport removes himself from the back of the milk carton soon! When a team gives up the type of draft capital the Saints did to draft you, you have to produce. Far too often Davenport has been a no show in the stat column and on film. Two first round picks and a mid rounder were used to get him and he's so far playing like a fourth rounder.

Last week, the Saints were outplayed by a then 1-7 division rival. This week, they decided to dominate a 2-7 division rival. Brees and the gang returned to form against the Bucs and have a firm grip on the NFC South thanks to the Falcons dismantling of the Panthers, who the Saints play next week. If they win next week, they can wrap up the division crown and start taking aim at a first round bye in the playoffs. Here's to consistency and health down the stretch.

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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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