Saints 42, Panthers 10

Saints vs Panthers 2: Good, bad and ugly

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The Saints did their part to improve their playoff seeding by beating the Panthers 42-10. It was the last game of the season so it served as a dress rehearsal for the playoffs. Here are my observations:

The Good

-If you see pigs flying, it's because the refs revered a pass interference challenge. Michael Thomas had James Bradberry beat in the end zone, but Drew Brees underthrew the ball. While they didn't throw the flag initially, it was a pleasent surprise to see them overturn the call considering they've overturned less than 10% of PI challenges this season.
-The defense looked as good as it should have against a team struggling the way the Panthers have this season. The health of the defense is a concern going into the playoffs, but mid-season pickups, backups, and rookies have filled in admirably. The next man up mentality has paid off well. Here's to hoping it continues in the playoffs.
-Extremely classy move by the Panthers organization to honor Carley McCord with a moment of silence before the game. McCord was a Louisiana native who was a sideline reporter for WDSU in New Orleans that covers the Saints. She was one of the five passengers that passed away in a plane crash on Saturday.

The Bad

-On back to back plays in the 2nd quarter, corner Marshon Lattimore made bad plays. He was called for PI when he was trailing Curtis Samuel, didn't get his head around and bumped into him. The very next play, he missed an interception that ricocheted into his chest. Luckily, the Saints recovered a fumble. If not, Lattimore would have been directly responsible for giving up points as the Panthers were in scoring range because of his penalty and failure to secure the pick.

-Kyle Allen was Cam Newton's backup, until he was benched for Will Grier. When Grier left the game with an ankle injury, Allen came in and completed 10 of his first 15 passes. It didn't amount to much for the Panthers, but when a guy who was benched comes in and does that, it's not a good look for your defense.

-While the defense played well against a bad opponent, they had several brain farts late in the game which allowed the Panthers to move the ball down the field. When you have a team down by four or more scores and put the backups in, things won't look as crisp. But when some of those guys are expected to be contributors and/or rotational players, it takes on a different meaning.

The Ugly

-The score at halftime was 35-3. That's uglier than any ugly Christmas sweater you've seen over the holidays. The Panthers were playing with a 3rd string quarterback, but dammit man! At least scratch or pinch your opponent!

-Josh Hill was lined up to block Panthers' edge rusher Brian Burns in the 4th quarter on a 3rd&7. He totally whiffed on the block and allowed Teddy Bridgewater to get sacked. While Brees wasn't in the game, you still have to protect the quarterback better than that. If Bridgewater gets hurt, Taysom Hill would be the backup. That's not a bad thing, but it damn sure isn't a good thing.

-The rain was a factor in the game. Several times I saw players on both teams lose footing and look very shaky when running or moving about. Guys normally wear different cleats that help them gain better footing. This may have caused Grier to injure his ankle as his foot seemed to get caught in the turf when he was sacked by Cam Jordan.

The Saints knew what was possibly at stake and played this game accordingly. While there were some brain farts by the defense here and there, there wasn't much to gripe about. This was a beatdown. It was as if the Saints were sending a message to the rest of the NFC and anyone else doubting them that they're on a mission. Miami is the sight of the Super Bowl. The Saints won their only Super Bowl in Miami. Could we see a repeat performance? Baby steps. There's still at least two, possibly three playoff games to play.

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Lance McCullers will make his return on Saturday at Minute Maid Park. Photo by Getty Images.

This weekend marks a major moment for the red-hot Houston Astros, as a pivotal pitcher and fan favorite returns to the mound to lead his team that’s atop the American League.

After missing the Astros World Series run last year with a serious and nagging forearm injury — one that has also kept him from playing this season — Lance McCullers, Jr., the fiery team leader known for his devastating curveball and finely tuned slider, is making his triumphant return on Saturday, August 13 against the Oakland A’s.

The hometown hero who regularly (and usually secretly, except when we nag him — even during Thanksgiving) gives back to the community, last chatted with CultureMap ahead of last year’s World Series run. (We also talked his clever seltzer concept he concocted with teammate Alex Bregman and Bregman manager/co-partner Tyler Straub.) McCullers returns during Hall of Fame Weekend, which celebrates Astros greats.

Aside from cheering on one of the most valuable and beloved players on the team, fans can expect three days of memorable fun. Here’s a breakdown of the weekend, courtesy of the Astros. Tickets, as always, are available online.

Friday, August 12: Astros vs. Oakland A’s: 7:10 pm
The Astros open a three-game series with the A’s and officially kick off Astros Hall of Fame Weekend. In a continued celebration of the 60th anniversary of professional baseball in Houston, the evening celebrates the 2000s-era Astros for Flashback Friday.The first 10,000 fans will receive a Billy Wagner 2000s brick red throwback jersey. Former Astros outfielder Willy Taveras will throw out a ceremonial first pitch; the beloved Friday Night Fireworks will feature music from the 2000s.

Pregame Happy Hour presented by Budweiser will take place from 5 pm-7 pm at the Michelob Ultra Bar, with $5 Ultra Drafts, a live D.J., and stadium and skyline views.

Saturday, August 13: Astros vs. Oakland A’s: 6:10 pm
McCullers takes the mound and Astros Hall of Fame Class of 2022 — outfielder Terry Puhl and former front office executive Tal Smith — will be officially inducted in a pregame ceremony that will begin at 5:30 pm. The first 10,000 fans will also receive a Terry Puhl bobblehead.

Continue on CultureMap to see what the Astros have in store for Sunday.

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