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.

Bears 31, Cowboys 24

Cowboys vs Bears: Good, bad and ugly

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In a must win game, the Cowboys did the unthinkable. They lost to a team with a quarterback who may not even be a starter next year. The game on paper didn't look bad, for the Cowboys only lost by seven points. But the game was dominated by the Bears after the Cowboys scored their opening touchdown. This was very similar to their game against Buffalo last Thursday. The Cowboys started hot then faded into obscurity as the game progressed.

The Good

- Ezekiel Elliott was once again the best player on the Cowboys offense. Sure Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup were able to each acquire 6 catches for 83 yards and 109 yards respectively, but most of their receptions came in garbage time when the Bears where playing a prevent defense, Elliot on the other hand was doing his best to carry the Cowboys offensively. He gained 81 yards on 19 carries and scored two touchdowns. However, his efforts weren't enough, for the Cowboys offense looked stagnant when Elliott wasn't being fed the ball.

- Just like last week, the Cowboys offense did not get off to a slow start. On their opening drive, the boys looked like they had game planed properly for the Bears' defense, and Dak Prescott was able to march down the field with ease. This lead to a touchdown run by Elliott and gave the Cowboys a quick 7-0 lead. After this drive though it's as if Prescott and the Cowboys couldn't get first downs or convert simple offensive plays. The defense was able to pitch a shutout until garbage time in the 4th quarter.

- The Cowboys' defense was not great either giving up 31 points to the Bears. However, the one Cowboy who could not be blamed on defense was Jaylon Smith. He was second on the team with 8 tackles and had two miraculous stops in the end zone to prevent the bears from scoring a touchdown twice. He has become the leader of the Cowboys defense and plays his heart out every game. He has stepped up the most since Leighton Vander Esh's injury, and Jerry Jones is starting to look like a smart man for giving Smith his extension.

The bad

- Do not let Prescott's numbers fool you. Most of his completions came in the 4th quarter with the Bears playing prevent defense. Prescott looked great in the opening drive, but afterwards looked as though he couldn't quarterback to save his life. Just like last week when the Cowboys played the Bills, Prescott and the Cowboys looked atrocious after their initial score. Prescott went 1-9 after their first touchdown and did not look good until the 4th quarter. Troy Aikman said it best when he exclaimed that Prescott's numbers were "fake stats." His numbers suggest he had a good not great game, but to those who watched the game know Prescott had a Blake Bortles like game in which he didn't accumulate good QB numbers until garbage time. This is three subpar games in a row for Prescott, and if he is not careful, he can kiss that long-term extension good bye.

- Brett Maher wasn't terrible like he was last week, but he wasn't good either. He missed one field goal on Thursday from over 40 yards for the 6th time this season. He is now 1-7 on field goal attempts from 40 yards or more. He has now missed 10 field goals this season total, more than any kicker in the last four years according to FOX Sports. His job security now comes into question, and it's easy to see the Cowboys replace Maher this offseason. The Cowboys have reportedly worked out multiple kickers before this week, so It would also not be surprising if Maher is replaced before the season is over.

- There was only one thing worse than the Cowboys' offense and that was their defense. As previously mentioned, Jaylon Smith was by far the best player on defense, but everyone else was pretty much a no show on defense. They allowed the Bears to score 31 points and Mitch Trubisky looked like a Pro-Bowl caliber quarterback for the first time this season. To put some perspective on his performance, Trubisky's QBR was 80.6. He is averaging a QBR around 40 this season, meaning he played twice as good as he was expected to against this Cowboys' defense. In addition to their inability to stop Trubisky, the defense as a whole had an exceptionally hard time tackling all night, which lead to the Bears gaining extra yardage and extra opportunities to score. Injuries to Vander Esh and Jeff Heath have derailed this Cowboys' defense, and their matchups between the Rams and the Eagles don't bode well for this struggling defense.

The Ugly

- Costly penalties killed the Cowboys Thursday night. Xavier Woods got called for holding on Allen Robinson on a 3rd and 9. This would have forced the Bears to kick a long field goal on 4th down, but instead the Bears scored shortly thereafter to go up 24-7. Michael Bennet also got called for an avoidable penalty. On 3rd and 2 in Cowboys' territory he jumped off sides which caused the Bears to get an easy first down. This penalty also resulted in a Bears touchdown. In total, the Cowboys had 6 penalties for 52 yards. That can be blamed on bad coaching and a lack of discipline.

- The ugliest part of the game took place on the sidelines. Jason Garrett didn't look liked he cared that he was losing to the Bears. He looked as though as if he knew this would be his last season with the Cowboys, so he is just going through the motions of his job until his inevitable departure comes to fruition. The Players on the sideline didn't seem emotional affected either, but rather in shock. Michael Bennett's face after the bears scored their third touchdown was pure shock. It's clear the Jason Garrett has lost the locker room, and his players respect.

- Let's face it, the Cowboys don't even look like a playoff contending team. If it wasn't for the fact that they play in a bad division, the Cowboys could have been written off after their loss to the Jets. Time and time again they constantly fall under pressure, and when their games become must win games, they fold like a house of cards. Despite all of the talent this roster has, they have continued to underperform and shot themselves in the foot time and time again. This was a must win game, but for a multitude of reasons the Cowboys just can't seem to win the big game when it matters the most. To quote a famous ESPN personality "They are an accident waiting to happen. What can go wrong will go wrong for the Dallas Cowboys."

Even though the Cowboys have lost three games in a row, they are still in first place in their division due the NFC East being a joke, They look to defend their pity title when they square off against the playoff contending Rams next Sunday in what looks to be a lopsided affair. The Rams have bounced bag since their slow start, and look to claim a Wild Card spot as the season comes to a close. It will be a rematch of the 2019 NFC Divisional Playoff Round matchup, but this Cowboys' team is a lot different for last year's team.

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