The New Orleans Saints came out on top in a hard fought 38-28 victory in Nashville, Tennessee against the Titans on Sunday. After going down 14-0 early, the Saints scored 24 unanswered points before the Titans rallied to make the game a battle and give Saints fans their weekly heart palpitations. A forced fumble was the momentum shifter late in the fourth, which the Saints capitalised on to add on another score. Michael Thomas broke Marvin Harrisons single season reception record with a game to spare and this Saints team continue to break “unbreakable” records.
As always, I will look at all three sides of the ball and highlight the standout players.
As mentioned already, only one place to start, Michael Thomas. Another huge game for the Saints receiver who caught 12 passes for 136 yards and a TD as well as breaking that long standing record. The Titans defense have been added to the Can’t Guard Mike list, however they did manage to contain him once or twice. Thomas thought he had broken the record with a Touchdown reception, for him to be ruled down a yard shy of the goal line. No bother, he would further extend the record with a score two plays later. What makes CGM so great is the different types of reception’s he makes. Up high, slants, catch and physical runs, he has it all in his locker and should most definitely be the offensive player of the year and in the MVP conversation.
Throwing the ball to Thomas was of course, Drew Brees. The critics and uninitiated will say “Drew Brees can only play in a dome” and they are wrong. Although he wasn’t as crazy accurate as the previous game, Drew put on a good display here with his usual skill and composure that we as Saints fans are well used to and take for granted at times. One of Jared Cook’s reception TDs was a perfectly thrown ball that only someone of Brees quality could make. 27/38 for 279 yards and 3 more TD’s added to the leagues record, not bad for a guy who can only play in domes 😉
Look who’s finding his form at the right time before the postseason, Alvin Kamara. His first Touchdown since week 3 was a 40-yard run where he sprinted away from every Titan in the vicinity and wandered in the Endzone. You can point to his block for Jared Cook’s first Touchdown as a turning point, giving Cook room to run for the Saints biggest pass play of the season. Kamara added a second score later in the game, grabbing 110 yards from scrimmage (80 rushing) as well as the 2 TDs. You know he is feeling good when he receives the ball, stops, makes a move and makes a defender look a fool. Hopefully he can continue his momentum through to the postseason.
Speaking of Jared Cook, another good showing for the big tight end. As eluded to before, he grabbed two very different Touchdowns, one physical grab in the end zone and one 61 catch and run down the side line. Only 1 other catch on the day for Cook but he picked up 84 yards and is a weapon behind Thomas and Karama that the Saints can really rely on.
Taysom Hill makes things happen. Used here as a Quarterback, Running Back, Tight-End and Wide Receiver. He got first downs with passes, runs and catches and could have completed a perfectly designed fake punt had Justin Hardee not dropped the ball off his own facemask. He had a great reception for 23 yards that any receiver would have been proud of with a Linebacker close by him.
Aside from the first quarter, a very good offensive performance putting up 38 on the road against a good Titans Defense. Yes, they had injuries but the Saints do too and the Offensive Line holes showed with Brees being hit and sacked on multiple occasions. Lots of penalties too for holding and false starts which seriously need to be ironed out before January begins.
Following a slow start, the Saints defense showed up to slow down the Titans offense in the 2nd quarter and into the third including a crucial forced fumble in the fourth quarter. Chunk plays have reared their ugly head again but this is understandable for a next man up defense, losing both Eli Apple and Marcus Williams in this game to go with the extensive injury list. A postseason bye would be so critical for this banged up team.
Let’s begin with CJ Gardner-Johnson. The man who forced that late fumble and was clever enough to pick up the ball and return it without whistles being blown. CJGJ was a doubt for this game following his concussion protocol, but he cleared this and played an excellent game. Some good tackles in the run and pass game and some physical hits to the opponents. He plays hard and has a good football brain to know where to be and when. After losing both the starters at safety, the rookie has been required and he most certainly stepped up to the task.
Such is the quality of Demario Davis, the commentators on the game even brought up when he missed a tackle, a very rare occurrence for the Linebacker. This just shows how good he is. He was excellent game and effective in stopping the run and got involved well in the pass run. 11 total tackles plus a sack on the day for DD, as well as 2 TFLs and a pass defensed. Speed and physicality were as usual his top assets, another great showing.
Again, due to injuries, Patrick Robinson was used more than usual and he did very well. He batted the ball away to ice the game and showed some great football knowledge across the game. One play he read the run, motioned out of his position and got straight to the runner for a tackle for a loss. Great play.
Cam Jordan had a sack on the day but could have had more. Only some good QB movement and additional blocking stopped him getting to Tannehill on multiple occasions. The pressure he created was the difference through, forcing errant throws and setting up other players to complete other sacks.
The man with the most sacks on the day was AJ Klein. Two sacks for AJ which made 3 for the Linebacker corps, but as mentioned above it was the pressure by players like Cam Jordan which helped set them up.
What a pick-up returner Deonte Harris has been. The Titans couldn’t cope with him so ended up punting out of bounds or kicking low and short so he couldn’t run it back. He set the Saints offense up on short fields multiple times, racking up 171 return yards with a 47 long. He is a spark that really ignites the team. With the Panthers giving up TWO punt return touchdowns against Colts, Harris will be licking his lips and looking to add to his tally.
The fake punt mentioned earlier could have really cost the Saints. I like the play call and design and it should have been completed but it was a good thing the defense stepped when they did to stop any Titans comeback. Justin Hardee owes CJGJ a beer for that turnover after his drop. This is why Taysom Hill is very important on those punt formations, because it gives you that option.
Wil Lutz was good again hitting all 6 of his kicks including a 47-yard field goal to put the Saints on the board with 3.
Thomas Morstead was his usual good self with 5 punts for 244 yards including a couple pinning the Titans back in their own 20.
The Saints overcame early poor play and some bad discipline to win this one when they finally woke up on all sides of the ball. It was not a complete performance but with the injuries suffered, on the road, against a potential playoff team, they did very well and deserved their win. Discipline, stopping the chunk plays and getting healthy will be the order of the week for the Black and Gold before heading to Carolina to close out the regular season.
Although grabbing a bye week is out of their hands, and they will be relying on a packer loss, the Saints will want to stay hot going into January, whichever week they play in.
Until next time……