Rams 27, Saints 9

Saints vs. Rams: The good, bad & ugly

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The 2019 NFC Championship game "rematch" played out to the tune of a 27-9 Saints loss. The games all mean something. This one means the Rams will have the tiebreaker should it come down to that in the playoff race...if the Saints make it. Here are my observations:

The Good

-Cam Jordan continues to show why he's one of the top defensive lineman in the game. Five tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss, a QB hit, and a fumble recovery. He shoudl've also had a touchdown, but more on that later. The Saints extended him this past June to reward him and keep him around because they know how valuable he is to this defense.

-Speaking of the defense, they managed to hold Todd Gurley and the Rams to only 115 yards rushing. Considering they gave up 180 yards last week to a team that doesn't have an All Pro running back, this was a win.

-Teddy Bridgewater came in for Drew Brees and played as well as one would expect of a guy who's only thrown a handful of passes in the past few years. While he didn't get the win, he did the best he could under the circumstances. No turnovers and only took two sacks.

The Bad

-On the fifth play of the game, Brees was intercepted when Jarret Cook bobbled a pass after a big hit and John Johnson was in the right spot at the right time. To compound the problem, Marshon Lattimore gave up a 57 yard bomb to Brandin Cooks on 3rd&16. Marcus Williams looked like he was supposed to help over the top. All this within the first five minutes.

-The third possession of the game was marred by penalties. Two accepted and one declined that ultimately resulted in a failed screen pass on 3rd&28. Drive started at the 50 yard line and ended with a punt from their own 48. Discipline kills penalties and the Saints need it after totaling 10 accepted penalties for 77 yards.

-Missed tackles plagued the defense. The score was 20-9 in the 4th quarter when Cooper Kupp took a slant 67 yards to the one yard line. Their perfromance against the run game would've been better had they wrapped up Rams runners. They played well, but it wasn't enough considering the circumstances on offense.

The Ugly

-Brees went down with a thumb injury to his passing hand in the 1st quarter. Bridgewater had to come in relief. Depending on how severe the injury is will determine the Saints' chances this season. Bridgewater is a capable guy, but he hasn't played much since his near career ending leg injury.

-Another Saints/Rams game, another terrible call by the refs. In the 2nd quarter, Trey Hendrickson caused Goff to fumble, Jordan recovered and returned it for a touchdown, but the ref blew the play dead when the ball was loose ruling it incomplete.That took points off the board. Mike Pereira, the former league vice president of officiating, said on the Fox broadcast that they should let the play go on when it's that close of a call.

-Players seemed to have lost their juice after the Brees injury. Penalties, missed tackles. Hell, even Michael Thomas dropped a key 3rd down catch. No matter what happens, you must remained focused. I'm not saying they gave up, but they didn't seem to play with the same. Maybe they were mind-bleeped by the fact that their Hall of Fame quarterback wasn't coming back. Something seemed a little off.

The Brees injury was a game changer, literally. The blown call by the refs was too, but Sean Payton compounded it by going for it on 4th down and not converting instead of punting. Watching this Saints team moving forward will be interesting to say the least. How much, if any, time will Brees miss? Will Bridgewater be able to lead them to the playoffs if Brees is out for an extended period of time? Or will this team be destined for a top draft pick? Maybe a new franchise quarterback is on the horizon? Too many questions. Not enough answers.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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