Saints 38, Titans 28

Saints vs Titans: Good, bad and ugly

Saints vs Titans: Good, bad and ugly
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The Saints played a very game Titans squad, but managed to pull off a 38-28 win and continue to jockey for homefield advantage in the NFC. Here are my observations:

The Good

-With his 12 catches today, Michael Thomas broke Marvin Harrison's record for receptions in a single season with 145. He totaled 136 yards on those receptions which gives him 1,688 on the season. He's by far the league leader in both categories and it's not even close. He also has nine touchdowns on the season. In his fourth season, Thomas has become one of the best receivers in the game. His career is off to a historic start.

-Rookie safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson came up with a game winning play when he forced Kalif Raymond tro fumble after Raymond caught a pass that put them on the edge of field goal range when they were down 31-28 with 4:06 left in the game. Gardner-Johnson has played well as a rookie. He's had his moments of screw ups, what rookie defensive back doesn't? But for a 4th round draft pick, he's been a diamond in the rough pick who looks to be a valuable piece on this defense.

-Alvin Kamara got into the end zone! He scored on a 40-yard run to cap off the first possession of the 2nd half and again on a one yard run on their next possession. These were his first touchdowns since he had a pair in week 3 against the Seahawks. It's been a tough year for Kamara considering he had 18 touchdowns last year. He's been battling injuries this season, which is something he didn't really have trouble with in his first two seasons. It'll be a good thing to get him going before the playoffs start. This offense truly clicks because he's a threat to score every time he touches the ball.

The Bad

-The coverage was a concern of mine heading into this game that proved correct. Ryan Tannehill had time to find guys that were wide open. Perfect example was Jonnu Smith running a crossing route across the field, catching the ball clean, and running after the catch for a touchdown. I don't think he was touched by a Saints defender until he crossed the goal line.

-Brees had a hard time getting going. He was 14/21 in the 1st half. While that may not seem like a bad thing compared to most quarterbacks, it's different when you're one of the league's all-time greats at the position. It's especially unusual considering he's coming off a 29/30 performance against the Colts.

-On 4th and 7 with the Saints up 31-28, they tried a fake punt and it almost worked. Taysom Hill was the upback and took the snap. He bootlegged around the right side almost as if he was going to run for it but threw a dart to Justin Hardee who dropped it. He ran a good out route for a guy who plays corner, but let it hit his chest and fall to the ground like a guy who plays corner.

The Ugly

-The missed tackles are becoming a real issue on defense. Not only did they fail to tackle Smith on his touchdown, but wide receiver A.J. Brown took a toss 49 yards to the house after he dodged a few Saints defenders and ran passed the others. It's apart of their issue giving up big plays, which has plagued this team far too often in its history. Big plays in the playoffs often means losing.

-Penalties! Penalties! Penalties! If fans and supporters of this team are sick and tired of it, I can't imagine how Sean Payton must feel. I'm tired of writing this line. I'll start copying and pasting a generic line. They had 9 penalties accepted for 65 yards against the Titans...in the 1st half! They "only" had two accepted in the 2nd half for five more yards mainly due to being pinned inside the one yard line and being flagged for a delay of game on a punt.

-Part of the reason this team has struggled with penalties has been injuries along the offensive line. Both starting guards, Andrus Peat and Larry Warford, were out. This also led to Brees being sacked three times today, when he's only been sacked nine times all season entering this game. Backups are backups for a reason, but they need to step it up.

With the 49ers at 12-3, the Saints will need help to finish with the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Next week, they'll need to beat the Panthers and have the Seahawks beat the 49ers. It's not totally out of the realm of possibility, but having to rely on other teams isn't ideal. Had they not dropped that inexplicable game to the Falcons, or lost in a shootout to the 49ers, we'd be talking about them with the #1 seed locked up already. Good thing the Michael Thomas record is out of the way. Now they can focus on dispatching the Panthers next week and possibly securing a bye in first round.

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Allen had high praise for Diggs. Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images.

Impersonal as it might seem to have their dynamic on-field relationship end with an exchange of phone texts, Bills quarterback Josh Allen made it clear on Thursday how much receiver Stefon Diggs meant to him during their four seasons together in Buffalo.

Allen made no mention of Diggs’ mercurial temperament or the occasional sideline flare-ups by expressing only praise in his first opportunity to discuss his now-former teammate being traded to the Houston Texans earlier this month.

“Just thanking him for everything that he did for me, and (I’ll) always have a spot in my heart for him. I’ll always love that guy like a brother. And I wish him nothing but the best,” Allen said, in disclosing what he texted to Diggs. “My lasting memory of Stef will be the receiver that helped me become the quarterback that I am today.”

Brought together in March 2020, when Buffalo gave up a first-round draft pick to acquire Diggs in a trade with Minnesota, the duo went on to re-write many of Buffalo's single-season passing and scoring records, and lead the team to four straight AFC East titles.

Diggs, now 30, also brought an inescapable sense of drama with him in raising questions about his commitment to the Bills and whether his tight relationship with Allen had soured.

A day before being traded, Diggs posted a message, “You sure?” on the social media platform X in response to someone suggesting he wasn’t essential to Allen’s success.

Whatever hard feelings, if any, lingered as Buffalo opened its voluntary workout sessions this week were not apparent from Allen or coach Sean McDermott, who also addressed reporters for the first time since Diggs was traded.

“Stef’s a great player, really enjoyed our time together. Won a lot of games and he was a huge factor in winning those games. We’ll miss him,” McDermott said. “You never replace a player like Stef Diggs, and we wish him well.”

Allen turned his focus to the future and a Bills team that spent much of the offseason retooling an aging and expensive roster.

Aside from trading Diggs, salary cap restrictions led to Buffalo cutting respected center Mitch Morse, the breakup of a veteran secondary that had been together since 2017, and the team unable to afford re-signing No. 2 receiver Gabe Davis.

“I don’t think it’s a wrong thing or a bad thing to get younger,” said Allen, entering his seventh NFL season. “I think it’s an opportunity for myself to grow as a leader. And to bring along some of these young guys and new guys that we’ve brought in to our team. And that’s an opportunity, frankly, that I’m very excited about."

Despite the departures, the Bills offense is not exactly lacking even though general manager Brandon Beane is expected to target selecting a receiver with his first pick — currently 28th overall — in the draft next week.

Receiver Khalil Shakir enters his third year and tight end Dalton Kincaid enter his second following promising seasons. Buffalo also added veteran experience in signing free agent receiver Curtis Samuel and Mack Hollins.

While Beane acknowledged the Bills lack a true No. 1 receiver, he noted there’s less urgency to fill that spot now than in 2020 because of how much the offense has developed under Allen.

“Now that Josh has ascended to the player he is, is that a requirement? I don’t think so,” Beane said.

Diggs’ role also began diminishing in the second half of last season, which coincided with Joe Brady replacing Ken Dorsey as offensive coordinator. Brady placed an emphasis on adding balance to a pass-heavy attack and getting more receivers involved, which led to an uptick in production for Shakir and Kincaid.

While Diggs’ numbers dropped, Buffalo’s win total increased.

With the Bills at 6-6, Diggs ranked third in the NFL with 83 catches, seventh with 969 yards and tied for third with eight TDs receiving. Buffalo then closed the season with five straight wins in which Diggs combined for 24 catches for 214 yards and no scores.

”(Diggs) meant a lot. You look at the statistics, they don’t lie,” Allen said, in referring to Diggs topping 100 catches and 1,000 yards in each of his four seasons in Buffalo. “I don’t get paid to make changes on the team. I get paid to be the best quarterback that I can be and try to lead the guys on this team.”

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