Saints 38, Titans 28
Saints vs Titans: Good, bad and ugly
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:
-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 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 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.