Falcons 26, Saints 9

Saints vs Falcons 1: The good, bad and ugly

Michael Thomas was clutch. Michael C Hevert, Saints website

In the 22nd meeting of Drew Brees and Matt Ryan, The Saints dropped the ball and fell to 7-2 with a 26-9 loss to their heated division rival. Here are my observations:

The Good

​-Michael Thomas had 13 catches on 14 targets for 152 yards. He was the lone bright spot in a dim game for the Saints. Brees was 32/45 for 287 yards, but failed to throw a touchdown pass. Thomas is the Saints top receiver. Everyone knows he's going to get the ball and be targeted a high percentage of the time, yet he still dominates. If he's not considered one of the top receivers in the league, something is wrong with that list.

-Marcus Williams came from the middle of the field to pick off Matt Ryan with four minutes left in the game and the team down by 14. Eli Apple lost his man on a go route and Williams made the save. This was the type of play that makes Williams one of the better players on this defense and one of the best young safeties this team has ever had.

-Julio Jones is one of the best wide receivers in the game. He's usually a matchup nightmare for the Saints and anyone else he goes up against. After Marshon Lattimore got hurt, the rest of the defensive backs picked up his slack and held Jones to three catches on nine targets for 79 yards, with 54 of those yards coming on a play in which Apple bumped into a teammate and caused Jones to be wide open.

The Bad

-By the start of the 2nd quarter, the Falcons ran for a season first half high of 67 yards. They ended the first half with 85 yards (21 more than their previous first half high) and totaled 143 yards, which is 74.5 yards more than their season average of 68.5 per game.

-The Saints average 6.6 penalties (tied for ninth) and 51.2 penalty yards (4th) per game. They had 11 penalties today for 85 yards. Four of those were illegal use of hands to the face. This is something that has to be addressed. It's not normally called this frequently, but every one of them were legit. It's similar to holding because it can be called on every play.

-Speaking of the run game, the Saints only managed 52 yards on 11 carries themselves. They came into this game averaging 114.3 yards per game. The fact that they were playing from behind all game played a large part in this stat. Only running the ball 11 times is no excuse. The Falcons averaged giving up 118.4 yards a game on the ground. Sean Payton seemed to panic and keep throwing instead of sticking with the run.

The Ugly

-To say the Falcons' pass rush has been anemic this season would be an understatement. They came into this game with seven sacks. While the Saints' pass protection, and Brees' pocket presence, has typically yielded low sack numbers. They gave up six today and had only given up 12 all season.

-228 yards and nine points are numbers you'd think you'd see in the 1st quarter, not a game total. When Brees has played a complete game this season, the Saints averaged over 500 yards and 30.5 points per game. Not a good look, especially when you're in the race for homefield advantage in the NFC.

-Lattimore (hamstring) and Andrus Peat (arm) both left the game in the first half. Neither returned to play and it showed. Jones got all his catches and yards after Lattimore got hurt, and Brees was sacked five times after Peat went out. Not to mention left tackle Terron Armstead has been sick all week. This made for a disaster along the offensive line.

This rivalry will always be intense. Over the last two decades, the Saints have dominated the series 24-15. For a 1-7 team to play and dominate a 7-1 team in their buiklding is unacceptable from a Saints point of view. Props to Falcons' head coach Dan Quinn for having his team prepared. Sometimes a team needs a kick in the pants to get them going. The Saints were coming off a bye, played at home, and lost to a division rival who was heading towards a top draft pick due to their record. Next week when they play Tampa, I'll be interested in seeing how this Saints team comes out.

Bears 31, Cowboys 24

Cowboys vs Bears: Good, bad and ugly

Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

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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