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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Houston's magic number stays at 2

Astros drop series finale to Mariners after rough start by Greinke

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With their magic number at 2 to secure their spot in the 2020 MLB postseason, the Astros returned to T-Mobile Park in Seattle for this three-game series' finale and rubber game. Here are the highlights from the game:

Final Score: Mariners 3, Astros 2.

Record: 28-28, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Nick Margevicius (2-3, 4.57 ERA)

Losing pitcher: Zack Greinke (3-3, 4.03 ERA).

Greinke unable to complete five innings

While the Astros were being held scoreless, the Mariners were putting up runs on Zack Greinke. They took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first with back-to-back singles followed by an RBI-double with one out. Greinke would stop the damage there, then looked to settle in over the next few frames.

He allowed just one baserunner in the second through fourth innings, a one-out single in the bottom of the fourth. Then, in the fifth, the Mariners would knock him out of the game by getting a one-out single that would come around to score on a two-out RBI-double, followed by an RBI-single to extend the lead to 3-0. Greinke faced one more batter, allowing a single before Dusty Baker would take the ball and move to the bullpen. His final line: 4.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 0 HR, 92 P.

Astros try a late rally, come up short

On the other end, the Astros were unable to break through against Nick Margevicius, getting just one hit and two walks through the first four innings. They had a chance to get on the board in the top of the fifth, starting the inning with back-to-back singles before a walk loaded the bases with one out to turn the lineup over. They'd come up empty, though, with George Springer striking out before a long flyball to center by Jose Altuve to end the inning.

After finishing the fifth for Greinke, Andre Scrubb returned for a scoreless sixth, working around a one-out walk. Still 3-0, Blake Taylor took over on the mound in the bottom of the seventh, erasing a leadoff single and two-out walk to keep Seattle from extending their lead. Houston had another chance to score in the top of the eighth, getting two runners in scoring position, but again would strand them.

Cy Sneed was the next reliever out for the Astros, working around a two-out walk to send the game on to the ninth. The Astros would avoid the shutout, getting a two-RBI single by pinch-hitting Josh Reddick in the top of the ninth to make it a one-run game at 3-2. That's as close as they'd come, though, as the Mariners would eventually get the final out to take the series and keep the Astros' magic number stagnant at 2.

Up Next: There is one series left in the regular season for Houston, and it awaits them in Arlington with a four-game series against the Rangers, who are well eliminated from playoff contention. The first of the four games will start at 7:05 PM Central on Thursday with a pitching matchup of Lance Lynn (6-2, 2.53 ERA) for Texas and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.33 ERA) for the Astros.

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