SAINTS 30, VIKINGS 20

Saints vs Vikings: Observations on New Orlean's win in Minnesota

Drew Brees was not at his best. Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

The rematch from the Minnesota Miracle in last year’s NFC playoffs took place Sunday night. The Saints came out victorious with a 30-20 victory. Let’s jump right into how I saw this win shake out:

The Good

-Taysom Hill normally comes in the game to run read option plays only. When Sean Payton called a play action pass, Hill found Michael Thomas for a 44 yard catch deep middle that led to the team’s first touchdown. Payton continues to make good use of Hill.

-The defense held the Vikings to only 85 yards rushing. Normally, it’s their pass defense that’s an Achilles heel (more on them later), but the run defense can be just as bad. Some of that can be attributed to…

-…Sheldon Rankins and Marcus Davenport starting to pay dividends. Both are former first rounders, Rankins in 2016 and Davenport in 2018, who have lofty expectations to live up to (especially Davenport since they gave up next year’s first rounder to move up to get him. They both provided key sacks (Rankins with two, Davenport with one) tonight. They were both also key in stopping the run.

The Bad

-Drew Brees threw his first interception of the season in the second quarter. Vikings showed A-gap blitz (between center and guard) and a defensive end came free to pressure him. His pass to Michael Thomas was high and Harrison Smith beat Thomas for the jump ball. Being down 13-10 on the road in prime time to a conference rival mid-season isn’t time to throw your first pick.

-Brees only threw for 120 yards. Normally this is a recipe for disaster, but the defense actually helped them win. Moving forward, he’ll need to have more of an impact if they expect to live up to lofty expectations.

- Saints kicker Will Lutz had to bail out his team twice. Alvin Kamara dropped a for sure first down catch on third and three from the Vikings’ 34, but Lutz hit from 52 yards out. Drew Brees committed an intentional grounding penalty on third and goal from the 10 yard line, but the penalty pushed it back to the 24. Lutz came through with a 42-yarder. Trading field goals for touchdowns won’t win playoff games.

The Ugly

- P.J. Williams was picked on early and often. With Ken Crawley out, Williams had to start. In the first quarter, Stefon Diggs burned him for a big gain and then a touchdown on fourth down on the Vikings’ first possession. His pass interference in the end zone in second quarter led to the Vikings second touchdown.

-Penalties were again a factor. The Saints posted seven for 64 yards this game, with most of those coming on pass interference calls from guys who shouldn’t be playing a significant role as previously stated.

-3.7 yards per carry on 29 rushes for a total of 106 yards is another number that reveals how fortunate the Saints were to win. When this team wins and dominates, so does the run game. Couple this with a subpar yardage performance from Brees, and this was another loss waiting to happen.

The Saints are now 6-1, in lead of the NFC South division, and on course to face the Rams for NFC supremacy next week. They’ve pasted this test and will move on to the next test on their difficult schedule. To consider yourself a true contender in the NFL, you must be able to blow teams out, as well as win ugly. This team has proven to do both. They’ve “exorcized the demon” of the Vikings… for now. Next up is the bully on the NFC block. They win next week, they’ll be the new favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.  

 

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Houston dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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