Open “Mike” Night in Nashville
Oh to be at this game today. If I had to pick one road game to go to it would be this one in Nashville. Although I would have to be dragged away from the bars and music on Broadway to make kick off. Great city. Anyway enough of the sentiment and onto the football.
The Saints (11-3) headed to Music City this week to face off against the Tennessee Titans (8-6) of the AFC South. The Saints are still in the running for the number 1 seed in the NFC while the Titans can still make the playoffs regardless of today's result. The Titans started the season badly but since benching former Heisman Trophy winner and 2nd overall draft pick in 2015 Marcus Mariota they have seen a resurgence with backup Quarterback Ryan Tannehill improving the Titans offense. They have since averaged 30 points per game (5th in NFL) and 399.8 YPG (3rd in NFL). The Titans have had a really strong running game this season and they like the power run game followed by play action so the Saints would have to prepared physically and mentality and be careful not to attack Tannehill to fast off the blocks. The Titans were dealt a big injury blow prior to kick off with Derrick Henry (RB) being ruled out. They were also missing another 6 players. The Saints would have to be aware of Rookie WR A.J Brown who has been a huge positive this year for Titans. The Saints meanwhile were missing Kiko Alonso, Larry Warford, Vonn Bell, Ethan Greenridge, D.J Swearinger, Noah Spence and Andrus Peat. The Saints did however sign Corner Back Janoris Jenkins this week after his release from the New York Giants.
The Saints have been one of the NFL’s hottest offenses over the last few games averaging 40 points in last two games and 34.8 over the last 5. The Titans are a team vulnerable to the pass so they won’t be relishing facing Michael Thomas and Drew Brees, oh and I am giving Jared Cook a shout out to. Guys been balling recently. The Titans defence have allowed an average of 297.2 passing yards per game, Drew Brees has more career passing yards than all of the titans 16 Quarter-Backs since 2007 so I expect him to add to that today. Michael Thomas is edging ever closer to the single season reception record; he is currently 11 catches away from taking that record off Marvin Harrison.
Last time these teams met was in November 2015 when the Titans ran out 34-28 winners.
The Saints began the game with the kick off, Taysom Hill was involved early making the first tackle of the game off the return run. After CJ Gardener Johnson made the first defensive tackle for the Saints the Titans went 3 and out off of the first drive. Brees looked for Thomas early on and he soon picked up his 134th reception of the season, 10 to go. The Saints started sloppy and gave away early penalties the play action from the Titans was evident early and it would pay off as Tannehill found Tight End Smith for the opening touchdown of the game. Smith followed up a 57-yard record reception for a tight end last week to record 41 yards this week. The Titans 5th kicker of the season converted the extra point to make it 7-0. The Saints looked really out of sorts early on, Brees was sacked and the Saints had given up 2 penalties already. The Titans would increase their lead to 14-0 not long after, with AJ Brown running the ball 45 yards for the score. The Saints looked really poor in the first quarter and would need to improve fast.
The second quarter began with more penalties from the Saints (5/35 yards) and another sack on Brees. When the Saints are good we are really good, when we are poor we are really poor. Given Drew’s unstoppable performance last week his stats looked poor so far 6/10 43 yards. The Saints would make it 14-3 with a Field Goal on next drive. Jared Cook would go onto score a 61-yard TD for the Saints just before the 2-minute warning making it 14-10 at the half, that was his 5th receiving TD in 6 games. Not a convincing first half by any means but 14-10 was far better than 14-0. We need to really cut these penalties out though they were once again killing us.
The Saints started the 3rd quarter really well and Kamara would land his first touchdown since week 3 with a 40-yard score. Saints led 17-14. This was more like it. Kamara was starting to affect the game. Michael Thomas was still picking up those receptions and as the third quarter began caught his 140th catch just before he took the Saints to the red zone on the next drive. Initially it looked like Kamara had ran in another Saints TD but was just short, he would make sure on the next attempt though, the Saints had scored 24 unanswered points to lead 24-14. The Titans would however answer back on their next drive with a 36-yard TD to Sharpe. After the extra point the score was at 24-21. The Saints offense went into rebound mode and before the kettle had time to boil we had scored again, Taysom Hills 23-yard reception put Saints in striking distance again and Jared Cook would score his second TD of the night to make it 31-21 Saints, it was great to see Cook on fire.
The 4th Quarter began with a Titans touchdown to Sharpe to notch his second of the game, the score was 31-28. The Saints went 3 and out on their next drive, they faked the punt but Hardy failed to catch the pass from Taysom Hill. That gave the Titans the ball on the half way line. The Saints secondary then forced a fumble on next Tians play to recover the football and set up great field position on next drive all but killing the game. Michael Thomas was on fire again all night and he would go on to equal and then beat the record for season receptions on the next two passing plays. The second of the receptions resulting in a Touchdown to break the record, what a way to do it. 145th season reception. You really can’t guard Mike. The game was managed out well by the Saints, the Saints won 38-28 to move to 12-3 and still on the hunt for that 1 NFC Seed which is looking vital in pursuit of a place in Super bowl.
Next up Division rivals the Carolina Panthers in the final regular game of the season. Oh how it has flown by.
Until then. WHO DAT!!
And have a great XMAS everyone.