Saints Clinch NFC South in November While Making Matt Ryan Look Like a Chump

Happy Thanksgiving, e’rybody!!!  So much to talk about, but the stiff arm.  THE STIFF AAAAAAAARM!!!!!!!  Oh.  My god.  The Saints are 10-2, they have clinched the NFC South, and given Matt Ryan and Dirty Birds everywhere possibly the worst Thanksgiving holiday of their lives.  Life is good right now.

Division rivalry games are usually pains in the dick, because everyone steps up no matter how their season is going, but this game was mostly stressful because of so many self-inflicted penalties, and other self-destructive moments. And unfortunately Who Dats, most of these were warranted.  But more on that later.  For now, let’s all imagine that most famous of Kenny G sax songs is playing, a tape of Matt Ryan being stiff armed by Shy Tuttle is playing repeatedly on slow mo, and we’re sipping Courvoisier in that same jacuzzi from last week.  Ohhhhh yeah.  Let’s geaux!!

THE RECAP:

Two weeks in a row with a fast start is a great point of emphasis for these Saints.  As Saints fans, we’ve been starving for these kinds of starts.  The first 4 minutes of the game were dedicated to Taysom Hill.  The Falcons started off with the ball, and went 3 and out.  Then Taysom blew through the line on special teams and got a hand on the punt.  Falcons dove on the ball.  Saints’ ball on the Atlanta 30 yard line.  4 plays later, Drew Brees passes to Taysom Hill for a touchdown.  This is the Falcons game we wanted to see!

And then the game got dumb.  Like last week, way too many penalties.  Unlike last week, most of the ones against the Saints were warranted this time, unfortunately.  And like almost every week as of late, penalties are keeping our opponents in the game, because otherwise on Thursday night, it was a revenge game for New Orleans’ front 7.  The Saints defensive front made Matt Ryan their bitch, and it was the main event of the night.  It wouldn’t be until 12:35 in the 2nd quarter when the Falcons finally drove into the end zone thanks to a thoughtless PI against Eli Apple.  Silver lining?  Yep.  They missed the extra point.  We’ve got some serious kicker voodoo working here in New Orleans.

The next problem for the Saints’ evening started to show itself on the following drive: dropped passes.  Almost the entire eligible receiving corp would be guilty of at least one pass dropped by the end of the game.  So now the Saints were battling themselves in two ways: self-inflicted penalties and dropped passes.  Thanks to a 40 yard catch by Jared Cook (3 catches, 85 yards, 2 drops, targeted 6 times), they were at least able to get a field goal.  10 – 6 Saints. 9:05 remaining 2nd quarter.

After those Dirty Birds came tearing down the field on what might have been their best drive of the night, it ultimately stalled after Payton challenged a 3rd down catch successfully, forcing Atlanta to try a 42 yard field goal…aaaaaaand it was wide left.  Wow.  That gave Drew and Co. about 4 minutes to drive…and they did just that.  Cook with a 29 yard catch, Kamara with a 10 yard run (61 on the ground, 23 in the air, and at least two catches he should’ve had), and who else, but one Taysom Hill everyone for a 30 yard run for the score!  17 – 6 Saints.  Awesome, except waaaaaaay too much time left on the clock, guys.  Matt Ryan with 3 timeouts were able to get down far enough to give “Third Times a Charm” kicker Koo a 45 yard attempt, which he lands.  17 – 9 Saints at halftime.

Let’s skip to the exciting stuff, right??  There’s a couple punts, a Saints field goal because Kamara dropped a sure first down pass on that drive, and then…one of the greatest moments in recent Saints history happened.  Shy Tuttle was checked in on the defensive interior line.  He somehow blocks Matt Ryan’s pass only for it to drop into his breadbasket essentially, then he took off down the sideline (as fast as large D linemen go), and then Ryan ran up to try and stop him.  THAT’S WHEN THE MOST INCREDIBLE STIFF ARM I’VE SEEN IN YEARS HAPPENED, AND MATT RYAN WAS BLOWN UP LIKE A KID PLAYING BILLY MADISON IN DODGE BALL! ! ! !   If you haven’t noticed, all the photos are sort of dedicated to that game moment.  And by “sort of” I mean “totally”.

Back to boring.  Since the Saints offense was too busy shooting themselves in their collective feet, Drew Brees managed to draw intentional grounding to avoid a sack on 3rd down.  No worries though Saints, because the Falcons are trying soooooo hard to give you this game.  With 12:34 left in the 4th, Ryan throws his THIRD pick of the night to rookie Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, his first interception of the season.  Glad the defense came to play because Ted Ginn dropped a pass, so Wil Lutz was continuing his campaign for Offensive Player of the Game with ease.  23 – 9 Saints.

After Matt Ryan fumbled on a desperate scramble, the Saints ONCE AGAIN had the ball and were in position to put the game away.  Here’s another point in the game that was extremely interesting/frustrating.  Alvin Kamara drops a pass on 3rd and 8, but there was contact.  Sean Payton challenged the incomplete pass as having been caused by defensive pass interference.  He lost.  It looked no different to me than Rivera’s no call successful challenge from last week, and I’m not saying that as a biased Saints fan.  Ultimately, I think Payton was testing the referee waters, and to prove a point how the referee decisions on the subject have been all over the map this season, which is very true.  Another Lutz field goal, 26 – 9 Saints.

Last thing on this recap not surprisingly involves the end of this game.  The onside kicks…what the hell???  The Falcons were able to get another touchdown, and then recovered THREE ONSIDE KICKS, and only two counted because of an offsides on the first successful attempt.  Because of this repeated HUGE mistake by the hands team on those kickoffs, those Dirty Birds were able to get a quick field goal, and thankfully for the defense, they lost on downs after that.  Manos del dios, Who Dats.

THE RECLINE:

This game should’ve been a slaughter.  Like all-Rambos-combined kind of slaughter.  Sergeant Slaughter would’ve come out of retirement to approve of this slaughter.  Like when Schwarzenegger kills a small army in the end of Commando kind of slaughter.  But instead, we won by 8 points.  3 field goals in the second half is all we could muster.  Michael Thomas dropped 2 passes.  For any other human that’s not a call to arms, but for the ridiculously high standards of MT, seriously WTF?? Everyone not named Taysom Hill dropped at least one pass, it felt. The run game was abandoned again for reasons I don’t comprehend.  Murray was an afterthought. His shadow was more present on the field than he was.  The offense had stupid penalties to stall drives.  Eli Apple had 2 idiotic PIs to extend Falcons drives.  Somewhere “illegal hands to the face” was called, because that’s every game this season.  Wanna know how off the “off-ense” was?  It had been 198 catches, 22 games, and 403 days, since Michael Thomas dropped a pass.  That’s both incredible and sad. And again, “illegal hands to the face.” What the fuck is that anyway?? You mean like this??

This trend has become troubling throughout the season.  One or two groups are stepping up, while one or two are holding us back.  Eventually this won’t work for us.  We’ve got to start playing complete games, and that really does start with the coaches.  I know Payton says that in every post game presser, but it’s true in this case.  The penalties have to get under control, the team focus needs to be there, the play calling has to be smart, and the quarterback play has to be there. And definitely more Shy Tuttle stiff arm.

I think that photo is my favorite in the group. Anyway, is it just me or is something off about Kamara?? I think he’s sad without Ingram. He doesn’t appear to be enjoying himself out there. He needs a spark of some kind. We can’t bring his Boo back, but TDs could help. Getting excited about stiff arms could help.

No Drew didn’t have an awful game, and there were inexcusable dropped passes, but he didn’t have a great game either.  He felt kind of flat like the rest of the offense.  Yes, it was also a short week, and that is a fair argument to make.  The Falcons had the same short week though.  A short week doesn’t justify the head-scratching onside kick recoveries.  And a short week shouldn’t excuse Apple’s two PIs.  I get that Lattimore and Harris were not back at 100%, so that’s forgivable, but the short week certainly didn’t stop our front 7 terrorizing Matt Ryan all game.

So, let’s talk positives for a sec.  Mon dieu, the best part of the game was watching Matt Ryan get tortured like a cockroach with a kitten.  Hours of entertainment.  Let’s see if I got all of this:  ahem Matt Ryan was hit 13 times, sacked 9 times, threw 3 interceptions, lost a fumble, and had to throw the ball 50 times.  Any average joe watching football and sees that stat, is gonna think that the Falcons lost by 60 points.  Because that’s what should’ve happened.  But again, positives.  Demario Davis is yes the best non-Drew Brees free agent signing in the history of the franchise (That topic keeps showing up on Twitter.  It’s a no brainer.).  With 4 sacks in the game, Cam Jordan now is back in the front pack with the other sack leaders on the season.  He’s making a great case for Defensive Player of the Year. And fun trivia note: those 4 sacks by Cam bring his total Matt Ryan sack count to 18, the most now by any single player on any quarterback. What a fun fact, right??

THE PRECLINE:

The either 11-1 or 10-2 49ers come down to the Big Easy after a major clash in Baltimore.  At the time of this writing, I don’t know the outcome of that Baltimore game yet.  Let’s hope Baltimore wins, but both teams get roughed up…ahhhh if only.  San Francisco has a tough road to hoe.  They’ve got Baltimore, us, and still another Seattle game on their schedule.  We own the tie breaker with Seattle, so this is a “must win” for us.  And essentially we have to win out the season as everything stands currently.

The 49ers boast a tough defense with a smart, simple offense that gets very opportunistic.  I don’t see them beating Baltimore, but it’s gonna be interesting to see “how” they play Baltimore.  Planning for Lamar Jackson followed by planning for Drew Brees could not be more night and day.  And they have the difficult task of preparing their defense for both top teams on the road.  In addition to the offensive problems they will face, the 49ers’ offense are about to hit two walls as well because the Ravens and the Saints are two of the best in the country.  As an X generation kid, I hold no sympathy for San Francisco since we used to be their whipping boy twice a year when we were in the same division, not to mention our painful loss to them in the NFC Championship in 2011 (another year we should’ve been in the Super Bowl.  Hard to believe vicious hits didn’t start getting more attention until after that year…only 8 years ago in a league celebrating year 100 this year).  So I’m fingers crossed for watching them get dismantled over the next two Sundays.  Trust in our coach: Sean Payton has 10 days to get the team ready for next Sunday, and you can bet your ass he’ll be delivering the tough love to the team all 10 days.

Because it’s going to take that kind of coaching to get this squad on track for the remainder of the season.  Because after the 9ers, we still have the Colts, Titans, and Carolina to close out the season.  That’s no cake walk.  And let’s hold no doubt that it’s possible, because Payton & Co have already shown in the past that they’re more than capable.  For me, these big games scare me less than games like the Titans or Carolina games at the end of the season.  The Saints have the roster, they have the depth, they have the talent in all three phases.  But with San Francisco coming into down for a giant showdown that will determine basically who is 1st seed in the NFC, the Saints will have to bring their A game in all three phases, and they need to do that anyway if they want to go the distance.  And if they’re successful, they have to carry that formula forward to the ultimate prize.  Payton slaps this team into reality, and they dominate a tough defensive game.

SAINTS 23 – 49ERS 10

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