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Saints vs. Falcons meeting 1: Observations

Drew Brees and Ted Ginn led the charge. Saints.com

Wow! These two teams routinely put on exciting games that often go down to the wire. Today’s 43-37 win by the Saints was no exception. Let’s take a look at some observations from this barn burner:

The Good

-Drew Brees is now the NFL’s career pass completions leader. He did it in typical Brees fashion on a short curl route to Michael Thomas. He ate the Falcons up on the short and intermediate routes as he’s very adept with throwing the ball into pinhole-sized openings for completions. His best play of the game was his game-tying touchdown run with just over a minute left in regulation.

-Saints took advantage of a blocked punt mid way through the third quarter to go ahead 23-21 on a Brees to Cameron Meredith touchdown pass. Creating turnovers and scoring off them has been a recipe for success for the Saints whenever they’ve been contenders. Basic football math: more possessions= more chances= more points.

-The Saints racked up 534 total yards of offense. Sure the Falcons were missing several key defenders, but to take advantage of it with that many yards and 43 points in a back and forth affair was amazing.

The Bad

-With the ball inside the 10 yard line up 10-7, the Saints had to settle for a field goal because of compound penalties. A holding call, followed by a false start pushed them out of the red zone. Seeing tons of teams this year shoot themselves with compound penalties. *(I’m going to poor-man copyright that phrase. No Stealing!)

-The defense continues to give up points and yards at an alarming rate. In fact, 407 yards and 37 points is enough to get you blown out of most games. What happens when this team runs up against the teams with an equally good defense? Shootouts aren’t a recipe for playoff success, much less making the playoffs.

-Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas accounted for 317 of the 534 yards the Saints had. Relying on these two young studs so heavily so early in the season will get them banged up. Mark Ingram can’t come back soon enough. Sure the records are nice, but if this team wants to keep these guys around long term, they’re going to have to spread the ball around more.

The Ugly

-PJ Williams gave up a 75-yard touchdown to Falcons rookie Calvin Ridley a few minutes before the half. He was badly beaten in man coverage deep, the same reason he started in place of Ken Crawley. Ridley burned the Saints for three touchdowns and 147 yards on seven catches.

-Speaking of Williams and Crawley, they’ve both been picked on this season, but so has defending defensive rookie of the year Marshon Lattimore. The Saints secondary was a strength last year and has been their biggest weakness thus far.

-11 penalties for 120 yards showed this team played with poor discipline. Perhaps none was more damming than David Onyemata’s penalty on the Falcons’ field goal attempt that gave them a first down. The Falcons flipped that into a touchdown and two-point conversion giving them a 37-30 lead.

Division rivalry games are always tough. Sometimes, they get a little personal. This rivalry gets very personal. The opposing fan bases get downright nasty with each other (shot out to the Facebook sports group “NFC SOUTH – FYT Trash Talk Petty 24/7”). I’m sure this win by the Saints will do absolutely nothing to change that. Although the Saints are 2-1, they have lots of issues to work out moving forward. They need to count their lucky stars they aren’t 0-3 right now.

 

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF O'BRIEN'S COACHING

Not my job: Texans outmatched when it counts against Steelers

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Another game, another loss for the Texans. This time it was only a seven point loss to the Steelers as they fell 28-21 in Pittsburgh. This time around, Bill O'Brien looked to be on his game as far as decision-making was concerned. However, there is still room for improvement.

One thing that I did appreciate that O'Brien did was have trust in the offensive line. The Steelers pass rush could be problematic, but their defense overall is very stout. That's how they were able to nearly make the playoffs last year with a Duck at quarterback. While the Texans did give up five sacks, they weren't all due to poor offensive line play. The Texans lost 33 yards on those five sacks. Tytus Howard and Zach Fulton handled themselves fairly well after looking like turnstiles the first two games. O'Brien called longer developing pass plays and play action in spite of this and it paid off with Deshaun Watson and his receivers putting up 264 yards in the air.

There also wasn't an instance of Bumbling Bill this game. At the end of the first half, there was a minute and fourteen seconds left. The Texans were down 17-14 and had all three timeouts with the ball on their 25-yard line. Classic Bumbling Bill situation right? Wrong! Not only was the play-calling on point, but the players executed and the timeout situation was handled perfectly. First timeout was used after getting to midfield with 47 seconds left. Timeout number two was used after a 20 yard gain after the previous play. A 15 yard gain later to the Steeler 14-yard line and timeout number three was used with 28 seconds left. This set up perfectly for them to call a multitude of plays. They only needed one as Watson found Will Fuller in the end zone on a jump ball in which Fuller rose up and was physical enough to grab the ball over the defender. They went up 21-17 at the half.

Bill O'Brien's teams were 37-3 when leading at halftime. I say "were" because they lost this one after not scoring a single point in the second half. This was more on the defense not being able to fight its way out of a wet paper bag, and a lack of execution by the offense. Specifically, the run defense has been atrocious and Watson either needs quicker reads or to stop holding onto the ball so long by making quicker decisions. That's on coaching to put players in positions to succeed, but also the players to execute.

Ultimately, this was on O'Brien the general manager more than O'Brien the coach. This roster is woefully outmatched. The only time an outmatched roster can compete consistently is in college football with a wacky offense. It just doesn't happen in the NFL. Hey, at least Bumbling Bill didn't rear his butt chin today. Today's Culture Map play call menu was brought to you by Pour Behavior. I suggest getting over there and checking out their daily specials.

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