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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Houston couldn't keep up

Astros fall to Blue Jays as Toronto gets homer-happy

Houston's bats couldn't keep up with Toronto's Saturday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With an offensive clinic in the opener on Friday night, which helped them handily defeat the Blue Jays, the Astros returned to Minute Maid Park Saturday with a chance to secure another series. Toronto had other plans, though, reversing roles with Houston by getting big home runs to even the series.

Final Score: Blue Jays 8, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 17-16, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Steven Matz (5-2)

Losing Pitcher: Cristian Javier (3-1)

Toronto flips the script and turns on their offense against Javier

Toronto flipped the script from the night before early in this middle game of the series, dealing damage to Cristian Javier, who so far in 2021 had been able to limit his amount of earned runs. After retiring the first four batters he faced, a one-out walk in the top of the second set up the Blue Jays' first hit of the night, a two-run home run by Cavan Biggio, giving them a 2-0 lead over Houston.

After a leadoff home run made it a 3-0 score, Javier would deal with the fallout of more walks in the top of the third, issuing two to set up a two-out two-RBI double to give the Jays a commanding 5-0 advantage. Javier would battle back and complete five full innings, getting one out into the sixth before a walk would prompt Dusty Baker to make the call to the bullpen. His final line: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 8 K, 2 HR, 91 P.

Alvarez keeps mashing as Houston tries to claw back into it

Javier would exit with at least some runs on the board in support of him, with Yordan Alvarez hitting a two-run opposite-field homer in the bottom of the fourth to cut the lead to three runs. Alvarez accounted for another run in the next inning, coming through with an RBI-single to make it 5-3, which is where the game stood as Andre Scrubb would take over in the top of the sixth.

Scrubb finished that inning for Javier and returned for a 1-2-3 seventh to keep it a two-run game. Bryan Abreu was the next reliever, and he, too, was able to retire the Blue Jays in order in the top of the eighth. The Astros continued to chip away at Toronto's lead, getting another run in the bottom of the inning on an RBI by Yuli Gurriel to make it 5-4 heading to the ninth.

Toronto evens the series

Brooks Raley entered to try and keep it a one-run game with a clean inning, but instead, two runners would reach on a walk and error before Joe Smith would enter to try and strand them. Instead, a two-out home run put the game back out of reach at 8-4, with Houston coming up empty in the bottom of the inning, setting up a rubber match in the finale.

Up Next: This series's third and final game will be an afternoon start of 1:10 PM Central on Sunday. Zack Greinke (2-1, 3.76 ERA) will try to add more wins to his record for Houston, while Nate Pearson will be making his 2021 debut for Toronto.

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