Saints 26, Falcons 18

Saints vs Falcons 2: Good, bad and ugly

New Orleans Saints Official Twitter Account

It started fast and furious for the Saints as they extracted revenge on the Falcons from an embarrassing home loss earlier this year in the form of a 26-18 win. This win also clinched the NFC South and playoff berth for the Saints. Here are my observations:

The Good

-Taysom Hill opened the game with a blocked punt that put the Saints on the Falcon 30 yard line after the defense forced a three and out. On that possession, Hill then caught two passes for 12 yards and a touchdown via a three yard shovel pass from Drew Brees. Hill later added a 30 yard touchdown run right before halftime. He's a football player. There is no position for a guy that's played nine different ones.

-The defense returned to their once dominant form from earlier this season. They sacked Matt Ryan nine times, intercepted him twice, and forced him to fumble on a scramble. Best part was that most of the havoc was caused by the youngsters. Marcus Davenport had two sacks and forced the fumble, while rookies C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Shy Tuttle had the interceptions. Mind you, Tuttle is a 300lb undrafted rookie defensive tackle who made quite the play on the ball.

-Speaking of the defense, hats off to the senior member of the defense and its best player Cam Jordan. He led the way with four of those nine sacks with two of them coming on the Falcons' final possession that snuffed out any chance of a comeback. He's now up to 13.5 sacks on the season. There's a reason why Jordan got extended this past offseason.

The Bad

-Jared Cook dropped a touchdown pass from the 4 yard line mid way through the 2nd quarter. Brees scrambled just outside the pocket to create an open throwing lane, but Cook had a brain fart and let it slip through his hands. The Saints had to settle for a field goal and a 10-6 lead. Cook has been pretty reliable, but in the words of the great Day-Day "playas mess up too."

-Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara both dropped passes on the same drive two plays apart on their initial possession of the second half. On 1st&10, Thomas failed to hold onto a simple curl route. Kamara dropped his on 3rd&5 after running an angle route against a linebacker. Neither guy can blame contact, only their hands failing them uncharacteristically.

-Missed tackles and sack opportunities were an issue. While the missed tackles didn't kill them this time around by giving up big plays, Ryan was able to get away from the rush too many times for a guy not known for his athleticism. Although the pass rush did a good job of sacking Ryan, it could've been that much better.

The Ugly

-The Saints had only three penalties in the first half...for 72 yards! An unnecessary personal foul for 15 and two dumb pass interference calls for 22 and 35 yards respectively. They ended the game with seven penalties for 111 yards. This is beginning to be almost comically bad. Only one of them cost the team points. Much better teams will take advantage of this if it isn't cleaned up. How many times do I have to write this?!?

-Marshon Lattimore left the field to go receive fluids, but later returned. Kiko Alonso was seen riding the exercise bike and trying to loosen up, but didn't return. The potential Lattimore injury made me hold my breath. Turns out it was more of a conditioning/sickness deal. Health is a major concern moving forward. With so many key guys already out, this team can't afford to lose any more.

-The game was already decided with about three minutes left and the Saints up by 11. The Falcons tried an onside kick, recovered it, but were called for offsides. On the rekick, they recovered it again! Kamara dropped the first one and made a "business decision," in the words of Tony Dungy, and decided not to collide with the linebacker in an attempt to recover the ball. After a field goal to draw within 8, they recovered a THIRD onside kick! Sean Payton was seen chewing out his special teams coach soon after.

Stop me if you've heard this before: Saints/Falcons game starts with a Falcons three and out, followed by a blocked punt and a Saints touchdown. Familiar? I'm sure Saints fans know EXACTLY what I'm talking about. As intense as this rivalry is and for a prime time Thanksgiving game, Mercedes Benz Stadium sure did sound a lot like the Mercedez Benz Superdome. Atlanta and New Orleans don't like each other as cities, which makes this rivalry even more red hot. I understand their team was 3-8 coming into this game, but to let "Who Dat" chants and cheers for the visiting team break out all game long? That would NEVER happen in New Orleans! Clinching the division and a playoff berth before December is impressive, but there's more work to do. Up next for the Saints is a battle for the #1 seed in the NFC against the 49ers in New Orleans. That should be one helluva game!

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Houston needs a win to advance

ALWC Game 2 Preview: Astros vs. Twins

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

It took all nine innings, but the Astros rallied late and took Game 1 by a score of 4-1 and are in the driver's seat in this best-of-three series. They'll return to Target Field, home of the Twins, on Wednesday afternoon to try and get the win and advance to the ALDS. Here's what you need to know about Game 2:

Game Facts

When: Wednesday, 12:08 PM Central

Where: Target Field - Minneapolis, Minnesota

TV: ESPN 2

Streaming: ESPN App

Pitching Matchup: Jose Urquidy+ vs. José Berríos.

Series: HOU leads 1-0.

Series Schedule

Date & Time (Central) Location Pitching Matchup
Game 1 Astros 4, Twins 1 Target Field, Minneapolis Greinke vs. Maeda
Game 2 Wed 9/30, 12:08 PM Target Field, Minneapolis Urquidy+ vs. Berríos
Game 3* Thu 10/1, 12:08 PM Target Field, Minneapolis McCullers Jr.+ vs. Pineda+

* If necessary.
+ Projected starters.

Game Storylines

Houston's offense has to get going earlier

The Twins' error in the ninth inning in Game 1 was a gift for the Astros that they were able to take advantage of and score the winning runs. It's unlikely to be handed another chance like that in the postseason, so in Game 2, it's paramount that Houston creates their own opportunities at the plate.

The good news is, every batter in the lineup was able to reach base in the first game, either by hit or walk. However, they would go 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position while leaving nine on base during the game. Because they can't expect to have two pitchers to combine for a one-run game on Wednesday, they will have to carry over the momentum from the end of Game 1 into Game 2 to build a lead their bullpen can carry.

Trust your arms to navigate through

Whether it's Jose Urquidy, who is the likely candidate, or anyone else who ends up starting Wednesday's game, the Astros have to be prepared to have a longer stretch of innings filled by their bullpen. Despite his struggles to end the regular season, Greinke did well only to allow one run to the Twins over his four innings in Game 1.

You should expect a similar outcome in Game 2, where hopefully your starter can hold the Twins at bay for as long as they can before needing to make the change to relievers. It will be interesting to see how Dusty Baker plays that situation, mostly dependent on the score at the time, as he could have someone like Cristian Javier come in for multiple innings. The only thing the Astros shouldn't do is fire too many of their bullets and put their chances in a potential Game 3 at risk.

Be sure to check SportsMap after the final out for an in-depth recap of the game, and follow me on Twitter for updates and reactions throughout each playoff game: @ChrisCampise

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome