Vikings 26, Saints 20

Saints vs Vikings Wildcard Playoff: Good, bad and ugly

Getty Images

In the second overtime game of Wildcard Weekend, the Saints managed to lose a thriller at home to the Vikings. Here are my observations:

The Good

-I can't say enough about Taysom Hill. The guy does damn near everything! He lead the Saints to their first touchdown of the day with a nice run, 50 yard pass to Deonte Harris, and was Alvin Kamara's lead block out the backfield on the touchdown run. He ran the ball four times, and produced a first down every time. When Sean Payton says Hill could be Drew Brees' eventual successor, I tend to believe him now more than I did before.

-Demario Davis has been the Saints best defensive player not named Cam Jordan since his arrival. He makes plays all over the field in the run and pass game. His leadership on and off the field has been just as valuable. His touchdown-saving tackle on Dalvin Cook in the 2nd quarter helped hold the Vikings to a field goal instead of tying the game.

-Another one of the better defenders on this Saints defense has been Marcus Williams. The young safety led the team with 10 tackles and was very much needed. He was often tasked with making tackles when the front seven couldn't stop the run game or when his teammates in the secondary couldn't cover their guys. The only gripe I had was him not being able to get over the top when the Vikings went deep in overtime.

The Bad

-The defense got their first opening drive turnover of the season this year. Good, right? Not good when the offense takes over on the Vikings' 37 yard line, drive it inside the 10, and come away with only a field goal. The key play was Brees taking an uncharacteristic sack on 3rd&Goal from 4 yard line. In games like this against tough defenses, you have to take advantage of field position and score touchdowns.

-Missed tackles have become the team's Achilles heel. Whether it's not making a sure tackle that leads to extra yards by a running back or receiver, this defense continues to look like a group of first time tackle football playing kids when it comes to the game's most fundamental principle on that side of the ball.

-Dalvin Cook managed to break the Saints run defense. He ran for 96 yards on 26 carries along with two touchdowns. It broke the Saints down completely. Not only does a pounding run game hurt, but it also opened up the play action pass game as well as other aspects of the Vikings' offense.

The Ugly

-On their first eight possessions of the game, the Saints had nine first downs, 158 total yards, and gave up two sacks plus a ton of pressures. They couldn't get into a rhythm. Outside of the Hill-led touchdown drive, they were gifted three points off the fumble they recovered for a total of 10 points and went into the 4th quarter down 20-10.

-The Brees interception just before the two minute warning for halftime was critical. Not only did he throw into double coverage, but it also allowed the Vikings to take the lead 13-10. They had a chance to tie it after Harris brought the kickoff back 57 yards, but Will Lutz missed a 43-yard field goal attempt. These are the sequences that can be pointed to when teams lose games.

-There were two crucial plays that helped put the Saints in position to lose this game: the Brees fumble in the 4th quarter when they were in field goal range and Will Lutz's missed field goal to end the 1st half. Both took points off the board and both occurred in very critical times. But the worst goes to whoever put Patrick Robinson on Adam Thielen for a 40-yard completion to the 2 yard line.

The Saints have proved to be almost unbeatable at home in the playoffs. That myth was thoroughly busted today. This team has now made an awful habit of losing some of the closest, most heart-breaking playoff games. While there were blown calls by the refs against both teams, none of them would've changed the outcome. Hill was team MVP this game. He helped spur this team on when it seemed like no one else could. If any one player has to take the blame for this loss, it would be Brees. His two turnovers directly impacted the outcome and took points off the board (the fumble), or helped put points on the board for the Vikings (the interception). Another year, another terrible way to end the season for the Saints.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Houston's losing streak extended to five games

With key Astros missing, Detroit completes the series sweep

An overall bad day for the Astros on Wednesday. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

On Wednesday afternoon, the Astros received a big blow to their chances in the series finale against Detroit and potentially longer. Five players: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado, and Robel Garcia would all be moved to the IL due to health and safety protocols, leaving them scrambling to get a whole team together for the game against the Tigers.

The Astros would not be able to overcome both the loss of players and the onslaught of another strong start by Detroit in Wednesday's game which put them too far out front for Houston to come back from to avoid a series sweep.

Final Score: Tigers 6, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 6-6, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Michael Fulmer (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1)

Tigers knock out another starter early

Detroit continued their success of making Houston's starter work hard in early innings, getting after Lance McCullers Jr., and giving him an early exit. After a lengthy fist, they broke through in the second getting two hits, a walk, a hit batter, and an RBI groundout to put up three runs on 34 pitches.

He would have a quicker 1-2-3 third, but after giving up a single, a walk, and hitting another batter to load the bases and reach 87 pitches, he would be removed in favor of Joe Smith. Smith would allow all three of the inherited runners to score, adding those runs to McCullers Jr.'s final line: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 87 P.

Astros try to claw back into it

After Smith would go on to load the bases again in the inning, still with two outs, Houston made another pitching change to bring in Brandon Bielak to get the third out and stop the bleeding at 6-0. The Astros would get on the board in the fifth, getting a runner on base to set up a two-run homer by Jason Castro to cut the lead to 6-2.

Bielak remained in the game to try and eat up as many innings as possible. While he continued to hold the Tigers to their six runs through the six innings, the Astros clawed back into the game. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put their first two batters on base with a walk and single before an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel to make it 6-3. They would threaten for more but be held there for the time being.

Astros can't cash in, Tigers complete sweep

Ryne Stanek was Houston's next reliever in the top of the seventh, getting a 1-2-3 frame to keep it a three-run game, as did Brooks Raley in the eighth. In the home part of the inning, the Astros put their first two runners on base on an error and a walk, then loaded them with a one-out single by Carlos Correa. They'd waste their chance to make something happen, though, with an inning-ending double-play.

Ryan Pressly, who had no save opportunities in recent games, entered to get some work in the top of the ninth. He worked around a leadoff double for a scoreless inning, sending the 6-3 game to the bottom of the ninth. The Astros had yet another chance to make something happen, loading the bases with no outs to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. After two outs, Yuli Gurriel would bring one run in with a walk, but that's as close as they'd come, extending their losing streak to five games and getting swept by the Tigers.

Up Next: Houston will get a much-needed day off tomorrow to try and leave this poor homestand behind them. They'll pick things up in Seattle on Friday, with first pitch of the opener of three games at 9:10 PM Central. The expected pitching matchup is Jose Urquidy (0-1, 5.23 ERA) for the Astros and Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 3.75 ERA) for the Mariners.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome