The Saints escaped the Panthers' lair with a win

The good, bad and ugly from the Saints win over the Panthers

Michael C Hebert/Saints team site

The Saints continue their playing-with-fire ways and barely escaped Carolina with a 12-9 win over the Panthers. Here's how I saw it play out:

The Good

-Sean Payton dialed up the right play on 4th & inches just before the two minute warning in an attempt to ice the game. The Panthers packed the line in anticipation of an inside run or quarterback sneak. They rushed from the huddle and Drew Brees pitched it to Alvin Kamara for a first down.

-The pass rush was able to harass Cam Newton to the tune of four sacks. The number likely could have been higher if Newton wasn't the size of most tight ends or defensive ends.

-Eli Apple was sent packing from the Giants earlier this year. The former first round pick came up with a key interception in the end zone while playing man coverage on the 6'5 Devin Funchess.

The Bad

-Panthers go for it on 4th & 2 on the 50 yard line early in the first quarter. Not only did they convert, but they scored a touchdown on the play. Christian McCaffrey took the handoff then threw it to a wide open Chris Manhertz for the score.

-Left guard Andrus Peat was called for an unnecessary roughness penalty for pushing a Panthers defender well after the play had ended. The Saints were on their own 48 yard line and had gotten a first down. The penalty pushed them back to the 33 and they eventually had to punt.

-On their second and third possessions, the Saints failed to score touchdowns and had to settle for field goals. Those are drives this team had been finishing to start the season, but have settled for field goals or punts as of late.

The Ugly

-Center Max Unger went to the locker room to be evaluated for a concussion. The team is already without starting left tackle Terron Armstead. Potentially playing the season ending stretch without two starting offensive lineman is scary.

-Brees threw the rare pick two on a two point conversion attempt after they took a 12-7 lead. The Panthers had everything covered, but Brees decided to force a pass in a tight window on the run. It cut the lead to 12-9. Had he been a tad more patient, he had a tight end at the back of the end zone that would've been a better option.

-Tommy Lee Lewis had one job: DON'T FUMBLE! All he had to do was stay in bounds. The Saints could've kicked a field goal. Instead, the fumbled ball goes into the end zone and ruled a touchback. Although it gave the Panthers life, they couldn't take advantage of it.

The Saints now have over a 90% chance to secure homefield advantage in the NFC playoffs. They're playing like a dumpster fire on offense instead of just being on fire like they were earlier this year. They've got some work to do in order to make another Super Bowl run. Good thing it seems as if that road will go through New Orleans.

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The Texans hope to bounce back against the Bears this Sunday. Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images.

The Texans are off to a rocky start of what was s’posed to be their year of redemption, resurrection and return to respectability. At least that was the hope.

They had finally escaped the ugly Deshaun Watson spotlight. They hired a head coach with experience, who’s liked by his players and isn’t in over his head. They returned to the world of first-round draft picks. Their promising young quarterback was returning with a year under his belt. They even lowered the price of beer and hot dogs to lure fans back to NRG Stadium.

Vegas had them making progress, setting their over/under for wins at 4.5, a baby step forward from consecutive four-win seasons.

They went 3-0 in preseason. Yeah, it was all looking up.

But now, after only two games – and one of them wasn’t even a loss – it looks like some of the fan base and all of the media is pushing the panic button.

The season started with a 20-20 tie at home against Indianapolis. The Colts were favored by 8 points. Not a loss, certainly not a loss for Texans fans betting on the locals. But a game the Texans clearly should have won. Especially after realizing the Colts were shellacked by the Jacksonville Jaguars the following week.

Then it was off to Denver as 10-point dogs and a troubling 16-9 loss with the Texans failing to score a touchdown. Another game the Texans should have won. Denver was horrible, mismanaging timeouts, double-digit dumb penalties and apparently forgetting there is a play clock in the NFL. It got so bad that the crowd began counting down the seconds before another penalty flag flew. The Mean Machine from The Longest Yard was a more disciplined football team than Denver last Sunday.

Still, not time to push the panic button. Not yet. But if the Texans lose to the Chicago Bears, another game they should win this Sunday … it might be time to pack up the 2022 season. Sunday is must win because the Texans’ schedule hits a rough slate after that, with the Chargers at home, on the road against the Jags and back home for the Titans and Eagles.

There is a bright side to this malaise. The Texans are 2-0 against the spread, so they’ve performed better than the Vegas wiseguys predicted.

The Texans play in the AFC South, where only one team has so much as a win so far. The bad news is, that one team is Jacksonville, which was forecast as doable wins for the Texans, but maybe not so much after their shutout destruction of the Colts last Sunday.

Quarterback Davis Mills, so full of promise, has been a disappointment. For a quarterback with a reputation for throwing accurate balls, he’s playing like a nervous rookie. He’s the 29th-rated passer in the NFL. There are only 32 teams. Silver lining – Bears quarterback Justin Fields is No. 30.

The more troublesome thing about Mills, he’s not exactly a Fearless Leader on the field. He is a quiet, thoughtful, shy type. That’d be fine if he was dating your sister, but the Texans need a firebrand. You take one look at Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady and you see a maniac who’s obsessed with winning. Not saying that Mills isn’t driven to win, but it wouldn’t hurt to show it. Get in a receiver’s face, throw your helmet on the sidelines, smash a Microsoft Surface tablet.

To be fair, Mills is in perfect step with the Texans personality. The Texans are, let’s put it this way, not exactly an exciting glamour team. Last week, CBS offered the Texans-Denver game to all 20 TV markets in Texas. Only one – Houston - aired the game. Every other market went with the Cowboys-Bengals game.

Unless this season turns around, starting with a win Sunday over the Bears, the big winner for the Texans losing will be Alabama quarterback, Bryce Young. The Texans would be in line to draft him with an early pick. He’s fiery, thoroughly entertaining, a Heisman Trophy guy, electric and makes one hell of a commercial. His spot for Dr. Pepper is hilarious. He’d light up this city.

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