What’s good, Who Dats!? It’s Tee Word, and I’m back with the New Orleans Saints Player of the Week for Weeks 8 & 9 of 2018! For the second consecutive week, a defensive player rose to the occasion and and takes home the recognition and is joined by an offensive standout in week 9. Closing a week of constant replays of the Minnesota Miracle, the Saints defense, led by Sheldon Rankins, Marcus Davenport, and P.J. Williams, made sure that there would be no Miracle Redux in Minnesota. In a dominant 30-20 victory, all three players made an impact in one of the best defensive performances of the year, but Williams gets the nod because of the timing of his standout plays. As an encore to dominating the Vikings for much of the game, the Saints returned home to defend the Dome and take control of the NFC playoff picture versus the Los Angeles Rams. After a lopsided first half that ended 35-17 in favor of the Saints, the Rams battled back to tie the game, only to ultimately fall 45-35. P.J. Williams and DeMario Davis had strong showings for the defense and Drew Brees was back to his masterful passing but Michael Thomas stole the show and the headlines after the game. I’m going to share my thoughts for each week separately, so hang on for a long ride covering two weeks of Saints football.
Let’s get started with week 8:
Against Minnesota, Sheldon Rankins was disruptive from his defensive tackle position, filling gaps and offering very little space on run plays. Even more impressive was the way he pushed the pocket and bullied his way to the quarterback for two aggressive sacks where he swallowed Kirk Cousins with raw strength.
On Sunday night in Minnesota, Marcus Davenport did a lot more than flash his talent, he displayed speed and power for the world to see. Not only did Marcus provide pressure off the edge all night, he showed great awareness while making his second sack as he stripped Cousins of the football. Cousins was ruled down but it was a heads up play by the rookie to secure the tackle then get greedy. Unfortunately Davenport sustained an injury on the play but did finish the game. Tough news for a guy starting to figure it out but the projection of missed time is currently only four weeks. Get well soon Marcus!
Our winner of the week 8 player of the week distinction is someone who has been talked about in a negative light for quite some time. At the start of the game, P.J. Williams found himself targeted early and often by Cousins and the Vikings were finding success. But to deploy a couple of cliches: “all good things must come to an end” and “went to the well too many times”. Late in the second quarter, with Minnesota in scoring position, Cousins passed short to wide receiver Adam Thielen and Williams and linebacker Alex Anzalone converged on him for the tackle. Marshon Lattimore scooped up the loose ball and returned it into Vikings territory to setup a Saints score. While officially Anzalone is credited with the forced fumble, it looks pretty clear from my view that P.J. jarred the ball loose. The timing of the turnover opened the door for the Saints to assert themselves as the more dominant team. Not done for the day, Williams then intercepted Cousins on a short pass to Stefon Diggs and took it 45 yards to pay dirt in the 3rd quarter to place the Saints squarely in control of the game. While it wasn’t a perfect performance for Williams, his timing of his shining moments couldn’t have been better as both plays swung momentum in the road team’s favor.
Shifting to week 9, here are my thoughts and winner:
The defense gave fans hope for most the game by keeping Rams runningback Todd Gurley in check and holding their receivers to limited production in the first half. At one point before intermission, the Saints held a 35-14 advantage. The third quarter saw the Rams surge and the Saints sag, but by mid fourth quarter, the defense settled down for a couple of key stops to keep the Rams at bay.
As previously mentioned, Brees was up to his old tricks after a dull performance versus Minnesota in which he threw his first interception of 2018. Brees went 25/36 for 346 yards and 4 touchdowns with no interceptions. Like the defense, most of the damage was done in the first half, but Brees struck a mighty blow to ice the game on a 72 yard bomb to Thomas, showing off that magical touch on the throw. The Cool Brees was awarded FedEx Air Player of the Week for his efforts.
All of those things are nice, but week 9 belonged to #cantguardmike! Thomas was reliable, physical, and produced at an elite level versus what was initially thought to be a tough match-up with cornerback Marcus Peters. Well...that fizzled and died early as Thomas caught 12 of 15 targets for 211 yards and 1 TD. Mike now holds the season high for receiving yards and the Saints franchise record for most receiving yards in one game. As previously mentioned, Thomas was on the receiving end of a 72 yard score from Brees that closed the door on the Rams hopes for a win. And then the theatrics...after racing away from the defense and crossing the goalline, Thomas bee-lined for the goalpost and lifted the padding to unveil a flip phone. He then proceeded to pay homage to Saints legend Joe Horn with an epic blast from the past that drove the crowd in the Dome wild. Thomas was awarded the NFC Offensive Player of the Week for week 9.
Heading into week 10, the Saints look to remain focused and leave Cincinnati with a win over the Bengals on the road.
As always, Thanks for reading, Be Cool Who Dats!