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!

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CJ Stroud seems likely to be the Texans' pick. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

With two weeks left until the 2023 NFL Draft, it sounds like the Carolina Panthers are zeroing in on taking Bryce Young with the No. 1 pick.

While rumors and speculations always ramp up this time of year, what would it look like if the Panthers indeed took Young and the Houston Texans opted to take Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud with the No. 2 overall pick?

Having the second-option at quarterback in this year’s draft will cause a few certainties for the Texans. The first will be that Houston fans will be polarized on the decision to take Stroud. Some will feel like the Texans settled for a need and made the wrong choice, while others will argue the team ended up with the best prospect in the draft.

The next thing that will be unavoidable will be the comparisons.

From the moment all the quarterbacks leave Kansas City, especially for Young and Stroud if they go No. 1 and No. 2, their careers will forever be linked by not only the fan bases of their new respective teams but NFL followers all over the country.

When Young makes a dazzling play to help his NFL franchise, in this scenario the Panthers, fans will marvel at it and use it as fuel to support why he is the best quarterback in the draft.

When Stroud makes an impressive throw, you can bet there will be a “Stroud SZN” account on social media that will let everyone in Houston and the country hear about it.

When it comes to the actual Texans, they will do their best to put him in a position to succeed, beginning with trying to take pressure off him.

Head coach DeMeco Ryans has already put it out there. Regardless of who the team takes at No. 2, he is not going to put the weight of the world on his shoulders with pressure.

With veteran Case Keenum in the quarterback room, the Texans will hope he can offer Stroud guidance on how to navigate the NFL waters.

Considering that Keenum’s first ever NFL offense came from the same tree that offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik will draw from — the Gary Kubiak, Shanahan system — he can also help Stroud with intricacies of the playbook.

Running backs Dameon Pierce and Devin Singletary will be key in the success of Stroud if he is the team’s new QB1, and so will veterans like receiver Robert Woods.

With the plethora of draft capital the Texans have available, there will likely also be rookie prospects that stir up optimism for them to make plays.

At the end of the day, the biggest things Houston fans will look for if the Texans indeed take Stroud is proof. When the team took Deshaun Watson in 2017, it was clear the roster was filled with holes but the quarterback raised the ceiling of the program altogether.

While Stroud might not convert the Texans from a three-win team into a 13-win juggernaut, fans will be looking for plays.

Does he have an act for escaping a would-be sack, can he make an impressive throw on third-and-long to keep a drive going, and does he look better than the guy in Carolina and the two other quarterbacks — Will Levis and Anthony Richardson — while doing so?

There will be pressure. And that pressure will stem from a constant desire to have the No. 1 guy, even if Stroud is taken at No. 2 in this year’s draft.

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