SAINTS 12, COWBOYS 10

Saints vs Cowboys: Good, bad & ugly

Saints vs Cowboys: Good, bad & ugly
Michael C. Hebert, Saints website

The Saints and Cowboys had another classic game. It came down to the wire, but the Saints pulled out a 12-10 victory. Here are my observations from game two and a half of the Brees-less era:

The Good

-Two turnovers (fumble recoveries) in the first half turned things in favor of the Saints. They took a 9-3 lead going into halftime. AJ Klein and Vonn Bell caused them, but it was Bell who recovered both on back to back Cowboy drives. This defense has been, at times, woefully bad, but they deserve their props here for keeping the team in the game.

-Speaking of the defense, what a job they did with Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper. Those guys are two of the best at their respective positions and the Saints defense managed to hold them to a combined 113 yards was impressive. Dennis Allen, take a bow sir. He's been maligned as the Saints defensive coordinator. This performance should quiet the haters for a while. Allen put together a great gameplan and his guys executed.

-If Michael Thomas isn't in your top five receivers in the league, you're crazy. Thomas consistently gets open and makes difficult catches seem routine. He caught all nine targets thrown to him for 95 yards. Guys like Thomas are a quarterback's best friend and a coach's saving grace.

The Bad

-Midway through the 1st quarter, Teddy Bridgewater scrambled out the pocket and found Ted Ginn Jr. Ginn bobbled the ball and it was picked off. While Bridgewater will get an interception to his credit and Ginn will have a drop on his, it'll look worse on Bridgewater than Ginn. Ginn has had his hands questioned in the past. Here's another example of why a real number two WR opposite of Thomas is a priority in the offseason.

-The offensive line, and Bridgewater, gave up five sacks. Sure the Cowboys pass rush has been strengthened with the addition of Robert Quinn opposite Demarcus Lawrence, but something has to give. Terron Armstead gave up a crucial one midway through the fourth quarter when Quinn came free after Armstead appeared not to react to the snap as if he didn't know the snap count. Could've gotten Bridegwater hurt there. The worst was yet to come...

-Never has a Sean Payton Saints team gone a whole home game wiythout scoring a touchdown. They were in position a few times to score one, but failed to produce. Winning ugly is a necessity for great teams, but so is scoring and taking advantage of every scoring opportunity.

The Ugly

-The Saints are addicted to penalties like Pookie from New Jack City. "It just keep calling me!" And the refs keep throwing flags to feed their addiction. Six for 60 yards in the 1st half, and 9 for 80 yards for the entire game. My buddy Jeff on Twitter saw the same thing. It's become downright infuriating.

-Dak Prescott looked a little too good for my liking despite losing the game. He went 22/32 for 223 yards, only sacked once, and didn't get intercepted until the final play of the game. Sure he didn't throw for 300+ yards or have a touchdown, but giving up a 66.7% completion rate isn't ideal. The Saints have to do better if they expect to contend for a title this year.

-With less than two minutes left in the game, ball on the Cowboy 31 yard line in field goal range, and nursing a 12-10 lead, Bridgewater got sacked on 3rd & 8 forcing a 4th & 24 punt. Plays like this can cost a team a game. Fortunately, it didn't. Pocket awareness is critical at the quarterback position. Bridgewater needs to regain his form from his 2015 Pro Bowl form.

These two teams are both expected to be in the NFC playoff picture. With only one touchdown being scored in the game, it was ugly. One would think the Saints would lose a game in which the opposing team scores the only touchdown, but that wasn't the case. Handing the Cowboys their first defeat in this fashion was impressive. Perhaps when Brees gets back, this team will be in great shape. If they keep winning, Brees will come back to a contender instead of a failure.

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Following Houston's 6-4 road trip, the Astros returned home to finish the first "half" of the season before the All Star break hosting Florida and Texas. Houston's road trip was filled with clutch performances in New York, dominance in taking 3 of 4 in Toronto, and a dose of close calls and tough realities with a short-handed team against Minnesota.

Now the Astros hope to take care of business against the lowly Marlins and division rival Rangers. The Texas series, in particular gives Houston the opportunity to reassert their hold on the #2 spot ahead of the Rangers who have won their last 5 games in a row (as of the time this was published). Both teams have won 7 of their last 10 games and hope to catch a free-falling Seattle team to overtake the division lead.

Dana Brown told the media last week he expects both Justin Verlander and Kyle Tucker to be reactivated following the All-Star break but Tucker's updates continue to be more promising than Verlander's and MUCH more promising than Lance McCullers. Astros manager informed the media this week that McCullers has been shut down from throwing after his arm did not respond well to his recent bullpen sessions and the team is formulating the plan for what's next for the embattled pitcher. McCullers hasn't pitched since the 2022 postseason and underwent season-ending flexor tendon surgery last June. McCullers is under contract with Houston until 2026.

An eventual return for Kyle Tucker would spur a juggling act from Joe Espada to find a proper balance of time for all his outfielders, none of which have separated themselves offensively. Chas McCormick had a great month of June recording an .804 OPS but that run looks more like an anomaly as his scuffles have continued over the past 2.5 weeks, recording just 4 hits over his last 32 plate appearances.

While Jake Meyers has wowed fans and teammates with his glove this season, his offense has hit a skid, hitting just .184 with a .565 OPS over the past month. After rookie Joey Loperfido's torrid debut, he too has struggled with the bat, hitting just .216 with .599 OPS over the same time period.

An unexpected bright spot has been the recent play of first baseman Jon Singleton. Over the last 4 weeks, "Big Jon" is batting .302 with an .802 OPS. It's worth mentioning that Singleton's season numbers are better than Florida's Josh Bell, who drew interest from Astros fans over the past several seasons as a potential answer at first base. Bell has 135 more ABs this season so its not quite an apples-to-apples comparison but there's no doubt Singleton's contributions were sorely needed following the release of Jose Abreu.

To watch part 1 of this week's episode of Stone Cold StrosStone Cold Stros, just click the video above or to listen to the entire episode on podcast, search "Stone Cold Stros" in your favorite podcast app or click one of the following links.

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