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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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF O'BRIEN'S COACHING

Not my job: Texans outmatched when it counts against Steelers

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Another game, another loss for the Texans. This time it was only a seven point loss to the Steelers as they fell 28-21 in Pittsburgh. This time around, Bill O'Brien looked to be on his game as far as decision-making was concerned. However, there is still room for improvement.

One thing that I did appreciate that O'Brien did was have trust in the offensive line. The Steelers pass rush could be problematic, but their defense overall is very stout. That's how they were able to nearly make the playoffs last year with a Duck at quarterback. While the Texans did give up five sacks, they weren't all due to poor offensive line play. The Texans lost 33 yards on those five sacks. Tytus Howard and Zach Fulton handled themselves fairly well after looking like turnstiles the first two games. O'Brien called longer developing pass plays and play action in spite of this and it paid off with Deshaun Watson and his receivers putting up 264 yards in the air.

There also wasn't an instance of Bumbling Bill this game. At the end of the first half, there was a minute and fourteen seconds left. The Texans were down 17-14 and had all three timeouts with the ball on their 25-yard line. Classic Bumbling Bill situation right? Wrong! Not only was the play-calling on point, but the players executed and the timeout situation was handled perfectly. First timeout was used after getting to midfield with 47 seconds left. Timeout number two was used after a 20 yard gain after the previous play. A 15 yard gain later to the Steeler 14-yard line and timeout number three was used with 28 seconds left. This set up perfectly for them to call a multitude of plays. They only needed one as Watson found Will Fuller in the end zone on a jump ball in which Fuller rose up and was physical enough to grab the ball over the defender. They went up 21-17 at the half.

Bill O'Brien's teams were 37-3 when leading at halftime. I say "were" because they lost this one after not scoring a single point in the second half. This was more on the defense not being able to fight its way out of a wet paper bag, and a lack of execution by the offense. Specifically, the run defense has been atrocious and Watson either needs quicker reads or to stop holding onto the ball so long by making quicker decisions. That's on coaching to put players in positions to succeed, but also the players to execute.

Ultimately, this was on O'Brien the general manager more than O'Brien the coach. This roster is woefully outmatched. The only time an outmatched roster can compete consistently is in college football with a wacky offense. It just doesn't happen in the NFL. Hey, at least Bumbling Bill didn't rear his butt chin today. Today's Culture Map play call menu was brought to you by Pour Behavior. I suggest getting over there and checking out their daily specials.

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