Saints 26, Falcons 18

Saints vs Falcons 2: Good, bad and ugly

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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!

NFL Playoffs: Conference Championship

NFL Playoffs: Conference Championship good, bad and ugly

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The NFL Conference Championship Weekend is their Final Four. You don't get the games played in the same place, but there is a buzz in both stadiums because each team knows theyarethisclose to a Super Bowl. Here are my observations:

The Good

-Chiefs' quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the real deal. We gawk at his arm strength and ability to make throws in spaces and from angles that'll challenge physics. But his athleticism and escapability are underrated. Prime example was his 27-yard touchdown run right before halftime. Not only did he evade the rush and scramble to the outside, but he tightroped along the sideline, cut back inside, then carried a couple defenders across the goalline. He led the Chiefs in rushing yards with 56.

-49ers running back Raheem Mostert has played on five different teams in his five year career. In his second stint with the 49ers, he's turned himself into an valuable piece of that offense. Although they use a stable of backs, it was Mostert who set a new team postseason rushing record with 196 yards and there was still almost 20 minutes of football left to play!

-We will have a great matchup of coaches in the Super Bowl. Head Coaches/Playcallers: Chiefs' Andy Reid vs 49er's Kyle Shanahan; defensive coordinators: Chiefs' Steve Spagnuolo vs 49er's Robert Saleh. The meeting of the minds with two weeks to prepare should give us a good game. Key word: should. Please guys, no blowouts.

The Bad

-Derrick Henry was dubbed "King Henry" after his recent rushing performances. He was unceremoniously removed from his throne by the Chiefs' defense. 69 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown with a long run of 13 backed up the tough talk from Chiefs' defensive end Frank Clark who said earlier in the week leading up to the game that Henry wasn't hard to tackle.

-Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers looked a little off. He missed a few key throws, including an interception that ended any hope they had of coming back because it led to the 49ers having a short field and going up by four scores instead of the Packers being down by two scores. It was a minute before halftime, but the way the 49ers were running the ball, that pick was a backbreaker.

-The NFL fined Chiefs' offensive lineman Eric Fisher $14,037 for an unsportsmanlike conduct for his double-fist beer touchdown celebration during last week's win over the Texans. I thought they turned the corner when they started allowing more touchdown celebrations. So let me get this straight: you can choreograph a dance routine with the whole team, but can't pretend to chug beer from a league sponsor? Talk about hypocrisy.

The Ugly

-With the score 28-17 Chiefs with 7:44 left in the game, 3rd&6 on the Chiefs' 40-yard line. Titans' corner Tramaine Brock Sr. fell down and was called for a holding penalty on Sammy Watkins as he was falling. The worst part of that play: Watkins broke open and Mahomes found him for a 60-yard touchdown. Later when they were down by 11 with 3:59 left, Brock was called for a 41-yard pass interference on 3rd&10 with the Chiefs on their own 19-yard line. Those plays sealed the deal for the Titans.

-49ers running back Tevin Coleman was carted off the field in the 2nd quarter with an injury to his right elbow. An arm injury must be pretty damn bad if you're carted off. Thoughts and prayers to the running back I thought the Texans should've signed. Major props to him wanting to come back to the sidelines to be with his teammates wearing a sling.

-The 49ers outrushed the Packers 185 to 51...IN THE FIRST HALF! They were up 27-0 and had "only" passed for 40 yards. That's all they needed since the Packers couldn't stop the run. Mind you, they ran the ball 22 times to get the 185 yards. Packers defense looked like wet brown grocery bags trying to hold two gallons of milk.

And then there were two. Through all the strife and struggle, we have our Super Bowl 54 will be a matchup of arguably the best on their respective sides of the ball: 49ers and their defense vs the Chiefs high octane offense. However, don't sleep on the 49ers' ability to score, or how well the Chiefs' defense has been playing as of late. Ultimately, I have the sads. We only have one meaningful football game left. Hopefully the 49ers and Chiefs give us something to talk about. I won't mind seeing a 24-21 or 31-27 game. As long as we don't get a multiple score blowout, I'm good. Props to the Titans and Packers for putting up a good fight. It just wasn't good enough. From 32 to two. And there will only be one.

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