That was an absolute clunker of a game.
For the first time in the Ups and Downs series, I don’t have anything to label as an “Up” from the Atlanta Falcons upset win over the New Orleans Saints. Sure, Michael Thomas is still doing Michael Thomas things, and Deonte Harris had a couple of solid returns, but the game felt like one giant “Down.” Here are a few that stood out:
Alvin Kamara rushed the ball a total of four times all game. Four. Latavius Murray only added an additional five carries. Granted, the game got away from the Saints late in the third quarter where they were forced to pass, but the Sean Payton and the Saints offense abandoned the run way too early in this game. Making your offense one-dimensional is what the Saints had specialized in on defense, but the Saints got out-Saints’ed this week.
Penalties absolutely killed the Saints on both sides of the ball this game. On offense, a pair of questionable false start penalties (that looked to me as if they should have been neutral zone infraction calls on the Falcons) stalled drives before they could get going. Three different defensive hands-to-the-face penalties gave the Falcons first downs, and a brutal roughing the kicker penalty kept the Falcons on the field in what could have been a momentum-swing back to the Saints.
All in all, the Saints had 12 penalties for 90 yards - almost an entire football field’s worth. Absolutely unacceptable.
Down: non-MT wide receivers
Michael Thomas is incredible, but he needs help at wide receiver.
Tre’Quan Smith made an incredible catch and held onto the ball despite a hit that knocked his helmet clean off his head. However, he also had a pass go through his hands on third down and Ted Ginn Jr. looked like the Ted Ginn from Carolina as he had another two drops himself.
If the Saints want to make a run of things in 2019, they will need both Ginn and Smith to step things up moving forward.
Andrus Peat left the game after he got blown up on a sack on Drew Brees. More concerning, though, was the thigh injury to Marshon Lattimore, who left the game late in the second quarter and failed to make a return. The Saints defense can live and die at times on the performance of the 2017 Defensive Rookie of the Year, and a matchup against Mike Evans and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is on the horizon. If the Saints don’t want to suffer back-to-back divisional losses, they can only hope Lattimore is able to recover.
Also of note, it appeared Michael Thomas could have injured himself on an attempt to catch a touchdown in garbage time. No word yet on if there’s a legitimate cause for concern, but it definitely didn’t look good to the naked eye.