Saints vs. Giants: Good, bad and ugly

Drew Brees and the Saints got another tough win. Saints official Twitter account

The Saints continue their “Let’s Make Life Harder Than Necessary” season tour this week with a 33-18 win over the Giants. It was an ugly win in which they made unnecessary errors that could have cost them the game. Here’s how I saw things:

The Good

-If Alvin Kamara is Sean Payton’s favorite toy, Taysom Hill is Payton’s favorite Swiss Army Knife. Hill threw a fake punt pass for a first down, ran over Landon Collins (all-pro safety) for another first down, caught a screen pass (for a loss), returned the opening kickoff 16 yards, and would’ve had a touchdown pass to Kamara if it wasn’t dropped.

- Speaking of Kamara, Payton’s favorite toy had 181 total yards and three touchdowns, including the game sealing 49-yard touchdown run to put the Saints up 33-18 with two minutes left. Many talk of Le’Veon Bell’s gliding running style, but forget to mention Kamara’s effortless style as well.

- The defense finally decided to show up to the party! They held the Giants to 299 yards total, including only 97 in the first half. For a team averaging giving up 403 yards of offense, holding a team 104 yards under that putrid average is a win.

The Bad

-The middle of the field, whether on crossing routes or squatting inside open areas of zone, continues to be open. Several times the Giants took advantage. This has been, and continues to be an ongoing issue defensively, particularly on third and short or medium.

-Michael Thomas didn’t have one of his typical games. Averaging 13 catches for 133 yards and a touchdown every game so far was a bit much to keep up. Only four catches for 47 yards and no touchdowns today. Giants played great defense on the Saints’ biggest threat on the outside.

-Drew Brees didn’t have his A game going today either. He was 18 of 32 for 217 yards and no touchdowns. 56% passing from Brees whose career completion percentage is 67% is not normal. There aren’t many games the Saints have won in which Brees completes less than 60% of his passes.  

The Ugly

-Four of the Saints’ five first half possessions were scoring drives. Good right? Not when they’re deep drives into or start in the red zone and end in field goals. The 12-7 halftime lead should’ve been at least 20-7, if not 28-7. They even had two touchdowns dropped in the red zone on the same possession!

-The Saints started 1 of 8 on third downs. Several of those contributed to their poor red zone offense in the first half. It took them until the fourth quarter to get their second third down conversion. For a team that has been one of the best on third downs over the Brees/Payton era, that was abysmal. 

-Another example of how bad the Saints played was their two minute advantage in time of possession, 31 to 29. With the offense not in the best of rhythms, but the defense humming along just fine (and getting two turnovers), there was no way the Saints should have only gotten a two minute advantage and a win.

This was an ugly win, but a win nonetheless. A win on the road against a conference opponent is always a plus. There are several things this team has to fix before playing the Redskins. The good thing is it appears as if the defense is rounding into shape. The offensive woes today can be adjusted. The team will get Mark Ingram back this upcoming week from suspension which will take some of the load off Kamara and add a dimension to the run game. Going 3-1 in the first quarter of the season isn’t bad, but let’s see how the next quarter of the season goes.   

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Keep an eye on Alex Bowman this weekend. Image via: Wiki Commons.

For the first time since July 1984, NASCAR returns to one of its most popular cities in Nashville, Tennessee for the inaugural Ally 400 at Nashville Super Speedway. This track is a 1 1/3rd mile concrete oval that was dormant for nearly ten years and was only used as a testing facility. So it came as a bit of a surprise last season when it was announced that this track would be getting a date. For a lot of drivers, this will be a brand new racetrack, but we will see practice and qualifying, so that will be a huge help for the newcomers that haven't raced here before. Back when the Xfinity and Trucks ran here, this track featured a lot of first time winners. Back in 2008, future NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski shocked the world by jumping in Dale Jr's car and capturing his first win here. There will be a lot of veterans like Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick who have plenty of experience at this track, but it will be tough to compare. It should be fun with everyone coming into this race with minimal knowledge.

Last week, Kyle Larson continued his hot streak by winning the All-Star Race. Overall, while Larson and his Hendrick teammates probably enjoyed the race, the feedback from crews and fans was less than positive. As I was walking through the garage area and talking to a few crew members, a lot of them were very critical of the 450 horsepower motor and the tall spoiler to try and keep the cars bunched up. When I asked one of the crew-members what he thought about the package he told me, "Oh it's awful. The track is terrible, the package makes it impossible to pass and it's super hot out here." On green flag runs, it was the same as it ever was as the lead car would pretty much take off and the only time there was really any "pack racing" it came after there were restarts. The whole race was well-intentioned and the fans showed up as it was nearly a capacity crowd, but the whole thing just didn't make any sense. From the start time being in the nearly 100 degree heat to the wacky full-field invert at the end of each stage. Let's hope that next season's All-Star Race is a lot more concise.

In Silly Season news this week, Truck Series regulars GMS racing announced that they would be fielding a full-time cup series team. The team is currently owned by Allegiant Airlines CEO Maurice Gallagher and his son, Spencer, who used to drive for them in the Xfinity Series. This move seemed to come from out of nowhere as there was never any indication that this was a move they were exploring anytime soon after they turned down the opportunity to purchase Furniture Row Racing in 2019. This is certainly a great sight for the sport as there will be more new teams on the track and with their close relationship with Chevy, it wouldn't be a surprise if they step in and help this team become competitive. The favorite to drive their car has to be 2020 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Sheldon Creed. He has easily been their best driver in trucks, and it would make the most sense for him to get the promotion.

This week at Nashville, the driver that I have winning is Alex Bowman. Now while this is a brand new racetrack and he has a grand total of zero starts here, this track suits his driving style perfectly. With the inclusion of this track, there are now four tracks with a concrete surface. Nashville, Bristol, Dover and Martinsville. At the three of the tracks they have run at, he has shown a lot of speed, including a victory at Dover this season and a top ten finish at Bristol. This is also a track where crew-chief Greg Ives said Bowman has gravitated towards during testing. In an interview with Sirius XM Ives was quoted as saying "we used to have a lot of fun testing there," so this is clearly a track that they both enjoy going to. Another big factor going into Sunday will be just how fast these Hendrick Motorsports cars are, they have finished 1-2 over the last four points races. He has watched his teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott have immense success, and now this week I think he is due for a third win of the season. Look for the bright purple #48 Chevy to go to victory lane this week at Nashville.

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