SAINTS 12, COWBOYS 10

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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Houston looked much more like themselves

Astros return to form in win over Angels at home

Cristian Javier was impressive Thursday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Hoping to avoid spiraling further out of control, the Astros turned the page from their disappointing road trip and the recent stretch of games. They hoped to start this new homestand on a good note, welcoming in the Angels for four games of this eight-game stint at Minute Maid Park.

Houston would get the much-needed win, with their offense coming alive early in the game to put up big innings, which they rode to the victory thanks in part to a great start by Cristian Javier.

Final Score: Astros 8, Angels 2

Astros' Record: 8-10, fifth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Cristian Javier (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Alex Cobb (1-1)

Astros' offense starts clicking early

Houston would grab the early momentum, despite leaving the bases loaded in the first inning. They would get a leadoff double by Aledmys Diaz in the bottom of the second, followed by an RBI triple by Myles Straw to jump in front 1-0. They made it a three-run inning, with an RBI by Carlos Correa then a bases-loaded RBI-walk by Yuli Gurriel, though for consecutive innings would leave three runners stranded on base.

Correa drove in another in the bottom of the next inning, getting an RBI single to push the lead to four runs, then would come in on a two-run single by Alex Bregman, who made it 6-0. That set things up nicely for Cristian Javier, who was on the mound trying to take advantage of the opportunity for another start.

Javier has an electric start



Javier was electric over the first three innings, including getting eight of the first nine outs by strikeout while allowing only a walk and double during that span. He would have longer innings in the next two, but in both cases would keep the Angels off the board, finishing in line for the win. His final line: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 98 P.

Houston gets the much-needed win

Meanwhile, Houston's offense kept scoring. They pushed the lead two runs further over the fourth and fifth, getting a run in each with another RBI each for Straw and Bregman. With Javier's night done, Bryan Abreu was first out of the Astros bullpen, and despite allowing a controversial two-run home run to Albert Pujols, of all people, that looked to be a foul ball, got through the inning.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the seventh but would get just one out while hitting a batter and allowing a single before Dusty Baker brought in Brooks Raley to face the heavy left-handed part of the Angels lineup. Raley would get through it, sending things to the seventh-inning stretch with the six-run lead intact.

Raley would get another out before Joe Smith would finish that inning in the top of the eighth. Ryan Pressly, who has been starved for work lately with no save opportunities, would close things out in the ninth as Houston would start this series off with a win.

Up Next: Game two of this four-game set will be another 7:10 PM start on Friday night. Andrew Heaney (1-1, 5.65 ERA) will be on the mound for the Angels, while Zack Greinke (2-1, 2.81 ERA) will look to repeat the success of his last start; an eight-inning shutout performance for the Astros.

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