Saints 33, Seahawks 27

Saints vs Seahawks: Good, bad and ugly

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The Saints went up to Seattle and came out with an impressive victory in Teddy Bridgewater's first start since the Drew Brees thumb injury. Here's what I observed in the 33-27 win over the Seahawks:

The Good

-Sean Payton's faith in Deonte Harris paid off when Harris returned a punt 53 yards for a touchdown after the defense forced a three and out. Payton is on record as saying he thinks the 5'6 170lb dynamo can one day become the league's best return guy. (This was the first punt return for touchdown in the league this year.)

-The refs let a potential fumble return for a touchdown play out this week! Eli Apple punched the ball free from Chris Carson, Vonn Bell picked it up and ran it in. The refs held their whistle, let it play out, and confirmed the call after a short review. Game changer because either the Seahawks worked their way up to 31 yard line after a punt was downed on the 4, or the Saints take a lead in a 7-7 game on the road mid way through the 2nd quarter.

-Alvin Kamara is arguably the best weapon Payton has ever had outside of Brees. He can do anything on the offensive side of the ball except pass. He rates as a plus runner, reciever, blocker, and return guy. 152 total yards and two touchdowns against on of the better defenses in the league is a testament to his abilities.

The Bad

-Noise and not focusing on details cost the Saints a 3rd down conversion in the 1st quarter. That led to a missed 3rd&13, a punt, a short field for the Seahawks and their first touchdown. 11 penalties for 70 yards is a good way to lose a road game.

-Michael Thomas got his first target at the 1:54 mark in the 2nd quarter, just after the two minute warning. Thats a long time to go before even getting a target for one of the best recievers in the league. One would think he'd get targeted just as much with Bridgewater instead of Brees.

-The Saints had a -21 yards rushing differential this game. Rushing yards differential is a good way to determine who normally wins/loses a game. You can't rely on the other team to make mistakes or lean too heavily on the pass and think you're going to win very many games, much less contend for a Super Bowl.

The Ugly

-The 1st quarter ended with more penalties (4) than 1st downs (1). This has been a constant struggle for the Saints so far this season. Penalties are drive killers on offense, and drive extenders on defense. Either way, it has to stop because the team is already fighting uphill for the next few weeks at least.

-The defense again ngave up over 400 yards of offense (515 to be exact). With Brees out, the defense will have to step up even more. This unit has the talent, yet they end up looking less than stellar again. Something has to be done. Dennis Allen's seat neds to be warming up if this doesn't get fixed.

-The Seattle rain was unrelenting. Players slipped and slided throughout the game. No one was surefooted. Carson lost a fumble and Bridgewater couldn't gain a handle on the ball on a 3rd&Goal from the about two feet out. Harris even muffed a punt that the Seahawks recovered. May have also played a factor in Lutz missing an extra point and field goal (even though the missed field goal was null and void due to a Seahawk penalty).

I was not expecting this type of win. Honestly, I wasn't expecting a win at all. Special shout out to punter Thomas Morestead who regularly put the Seahawks in less than favorable field position. Bridgewater completed 70% of his passes in a Brees-like performance. He still holds onto the ball too long and often appears unsure of what to do, but he looked more comfortable this week. Next week, they face the 3-0 Dallas Cowboys in what will be a real challenge for both teams. The Cowboys have faced cream puffs to start their season and the Saints will have a hard time containing the Cowboy's explosive offense. Sunday Night Football will be rocking in the Superdome!

NFL PR has more than a Myles Garrett Problem

Gut reaction to Browns - Steelers: Ugly brawl, hits yet another bad look

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As I watched Myles Garrett being punched and kicked on the ground by Pittsburgh Steelers offensive linemen, I couldn't help but feel bad for the NFL public relations team. Last night's game was a PR nightmare. What will dominate sports headlines for the foreseeable future is Myles Garrett's inexcusable action where he tore the helmet off Mason Rudolph and then proceeded to use that helmet as a weapon to strike Rudolph on the head. However the unfortunate truth is that the game was a PR mess before that brawl even started.

For the past few years the NFL has had issues with its image on topics ranging from substance abuse problems to the game being regarded as "unsafe." Here is a recap of all the issues the Browns – Steelers match-up couldn't help but showcase last night.

Headlines prior to the game starting:

  • Cleveland RB Kareem Hunt – Headlines about Hunt returning back from suspension for "multiple physical altercations". Though his first game back was Nov 10th against Buffalo, we are still in the first week of his return and pre-game talk was focused on his history.
  • Cleveland WR Antonio Callaway – Was released by the team before the game for violating the substance-abuse policy. Though he will appeal the upcoming 10 game suspension, the team decided to waive the WR immediately.

Injuries:

  • Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster – Exited the game in the 2nd quarter after absorbing two simultaneous helmet-to-helmet hits. Smith-Schuster appeared to be motionless on the ground for some time.
  • Steelers WR Diontae Johnson – Exited the game in the 3rd quarter after taking a brutal helmet-to-helmet shot from Browns Safety Damarious Randall. Randall was ejected for the hit and we all got to watch Johnson be helped off the field while blood was gushing from his ear.
  • Steelers RB James Conner – Was playing in his first game back from injury, appears to have re-injured his shoulder in the 2nd quarter.

It is worth noting here that the Steelers were already missing QB Ben Roethlisberger who is out for the season with an elbow injury. As a result of these injuries the Steelers offense was unable to function for most of the game. Backup Quarterback Mason Rudolph finished with 4 interceptions and a 10.8 QBR.

The Brawl:

  • Cleveland DE Myles Garret – Will most likely be suspended for the rest of the year for his actions. The Brawl started when Garret threw Rudolph to the ground in what looked like a late hit to the QB. Rudolph's actions to escalate the situation cannot be overlooked, but for Garret to use a helmet as a weapon was completely inexcusable.
  • Pittsburgh QB Mason Rudolph – Rudolph came off as the victim but my gut tells me he will be punished as well. Rudolph took issue with Garret's late hit and is caught on tape trying to pull Garret's helmet off first. Also, as Garret is being pulled away it is Rudolph who runs at Garret to restart the fight. Rudolph called the helmet hit "cowardly" and "bush league" in the post-game press conference but his own actions may fall into that bush-league category.
  • Browns DE Larry Ogunjobi – Came in after he saw Rudolph get hit on the head with the helmet and than proceeded to push Rudolph to the ground from behind… That one left me scratching my head.
  • Pittsburgh Offensive Linemen Maurkice Pouncey & David DeCastro – After Garret struck Rudolph, Pouncey and DeCastro threw Garret to the ground where they repeatedly punched and kicked him. Of all the actions that took place, this one at least made sense as the line was defending their QB. However that probably won't stop suspensions and fines from heading their way. The whole "start a fight after your QB gets hit" thing may need to be re-examined if these guys miss significant time.

The trend we are seeing in the US is that more and more parents are refusing to let their children play football for fear of it being an unsafe and dangerous game. The NFL has been doing everything in its power to fight against that image, but Thursday's game was a failure on all fronts.

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