Saints lose 33-14 in a meaningless game

The good, bad and ugly from the Saints loss to the Panthers

Michael C. Hebert, Saints website

With homefield advantage locked up in the NFC, this game meant nothing to the Saints and it showed. Here's how I saw the 33-14 loss to the Panthers:

The Good

-Michael Thomas broke Joe Horn's franchise record for receiving yards in a season and extended his own record for catches in a season. He is now in the conversation for league's best. Every year when the new Madden football video game comes out, the argument ensues on who should be rated a 99 overall. Thomas is now in that conversation as well.

-Sean Payton is a gambler as a play caller. I enjoyed his fourth down gambles in this game. While I may have disagreed with some of the plays he called on those attempts, I like the idea of going for it in a meaningless game.

-It felt good as a football fan to see Teddy Bridgewater getting a chance to start today. After all he went through with the devastating leg injury that not only could've cost him his career, but his leg as well. However…

The Bad

-…Teddy looked like a guy who hasn't played much quarterback in the last two years. One specific instance that came to mind was a play he tried to extend and make a play down the field. Mark Ingram was wide open in the flat. As Teddy scrambled then looked at Ingram, the defense closed in and stopped Ingram for a loss after he finally caught the ball. That could've been a nice gain.

-The defense gave up too many yards to an injury-depleted team. Giving up 374 total yards to a 6-9 team that waved the white flag on the season two weeks ago is not how you want to enter the playoffs.

-One of the main reasons the defense gave up too many yards to the Panthers was a lack of pressure. The Saints recorded one lonely sack in this game. Mind you, the defense was going against a first time starting quarterback and a couple backups on the offensive line.

The Ugly

-Speaking of that first time starting quarterback, Kyle Allen was made to look like a Pro Bowler. Allen, who was a journeyman in college because he couldn't stick anywhere after being highly recruited, went 16 of 27 for 228 yards and two touchdowns. He also added five carries for 19 yards and a rushing touchdown.

-Sheldon Rankins, Andrus Peat, and Alex Okafor all left the game with an injury. None of them seemed serious. All three guys are key components to this team's success heading into the playoffs. The bye week and being at home will do them, and several others, some good to heal.

-As I mentioned earlier, I was happy to see Thomas break Horn's record. I was not happy to see it took him until the fourth quarter of a meaningless game in which the score was lopsided to do so. Feed him the ball on safe plays like bubble screens, shovel passes, hitches, and quick outs or slants. He only needed 24 measly yards. Why take forever getting him the record and risk him getting hurt?

With the No. 1 seed locked up, this was nothing more than a fifth preseason game. Several players got extra work in. Bridgewater got a chance to play against live competition. Thomas got his record. Ingram got some touches after missing the first four games with a suspension. If it means anything, losing to the Panthers, Bucs, and Cowboys in 2009 meant winning a Super Bowl. Let's hope that omen holds up this year.

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Yordan Alvarez provided the offense to back up more stellar pitching by the Astros as they took ALCS game 6 to advance to the 2021 World Series. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games of this series in Houston then falling behind in the series 2-1 by dropping the first of three games in Boston, the Astros took over the ALCS in Games 4 and 5, sending them back to their home crowd with a chance to finish things off in Game 6 at Minute Maid Park. After another stellar performance by their pitching staff and more timely hitting, they would accomplish that mission, winning the series and moving on to the 2021 World Series.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 0

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston wins 4-2

Winning Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Losing Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Houston strikes first to start tightly-contested Game 6

After a scoreless top of the first inning by Boston's offense, the Astros capitalized on a chance to be first to score in the bottom of the frame. Alex Bregman started the two-out rally, reaching base on a single against Nathan Eovaldi for the first hit of the night. Yordan Alvarez followed, delivering his sixth RBI of the series with a double to put Houston on top 1-0.

That did not spark further immediate scoring, as the one-run score held while both starting pitchers provided solid outings for their team. For Eovaldi, he was able to limit Houston to just that single run through four frames. He returned in the bottom of the fifth, facing two batters, allowing a single, and getting a strikeout to end his night.

Garcia impresses in big start

For the home team, they were recipients of another expectation-exceeding performance from one of their young arms. Only anticipated to go a handful of innings, Luis Garcia worked efficiently and effectively against Boston, keeping them scoreless and hitless through five innings. He continued in the sixth, getting two more outs before allowing a two-out triple, ending his night as Phil Maton would enter to strand the tying run. Garcia's final line: 5.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 76 P.

With both teams dipping into their bullpens, the Astros took advantage of Boston's as Yordan Alvarez's dominance went on display once again. He led the inning off with a triple, then scored on a double-play ball to extend Houston's lead to 2-0. Kendall Graveman took over on the mound in the top of the seventh and worked himself into a big moment. He gave up a one-out walk, followed by a single, which put runners on the corners for Boston. He continued to struggle with the zone, falling behind the next batter 3-1, but was able to battle back to get the strikeout paired with a terrific throw by Martin Maldonado to cut down the runner from first trying to steal second, ending the inning and maintaining the two-run advantage.

Astros headed to the World Series

Ryne Stake was Houston's next reliever, and he put Houston three outs away by getting a 1-2-3 eighth. With Ryan Pressly warming, he watched and hoped that his offense could give him some more insurance to work with when he went to the mound in the top of the ninth. His wish would be granted, as after getting two on base, Kyle Tucker would put a major exclamation point on the night's offense, hitting a three-run opposite-field homer to the Crawford Boxes to push the lead to 5-0.

Pressly, now with the five-run lead, came on to try and start the celebration by getting the final three outs. Against the tougher part of Boston's order, he would get a 1-2-3 inning, giving the Astros the American League pennant, which along with those won in 2017 and 2019, puts them back in the World Series for the third time in five years.

Up Next: The Astros will have three days off before The Fall Classic kicks off. While Game 1 will be on Tuesday, October 26th, nothing else has yet been determined as Houston awaits to see which of the Dodgers and Braves will advance out of the NL, which will also dictate if the Astros will host or travel to World Series Game 1.

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