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Saints vs. Titans: Week 16 quick observations

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It took a while to get things going, but the Saints roared back from an early 14 point deficit to score more than 30 points for the third straight week.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Tennessee Titans Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

It was an ugly start to the game on a day that saw the weather almost just as bad. After forcing the Titans to punt on their first drive the Saints gave up back-to-back touchdown drives. They clamped down on defense after that and got the offense rolling and were able to score 17 unanswered points, finally get Kamara back in the end zone, and have another record broken.

Here are some quick observations:

CJGJ

Gardner-Johnson continues to look like another draft steal for Jeff Ireland and his staff. It was a shock to see him fall to the fourth round as many analysts had him going in the first two rounds. He came ready to play and looked to make teams realize their mistakes from the opening play:

Normally finding work in the slot or in dime packages, CJGJ has been playing in Vonn Bell’s spot since his injury. He was second on the team in tackles behind Demario Davis with eight, adding one for a loss and one fumble recovery for 35 yards that helped swing the momentum of the game.

He was also a fingertip away from recording his second interception of the season off a tipped pass.

While he’s had his share of “rookie moments”, overall he has been solid in any role Dennis Allen has put him in.

Veteran Depth

The secondary had multiple starters out entering the game and went on to lose two more in Eli Apple and Marcus Williams during the course of the day. But fortunately the Saints boast one of the deepest rosters that they were able to add to over the past week.

Already down Vonn Bell, nickel cornerback P.J. Williams moved to safety once Marcus Williams went down. Newly acquired corner Janoris Jenkins and fellow veteran Patrick Robinson would fill in on the boundary and the slot.

Robinson, who has barely seen the field since signing with the team last season, looked like the top-tier slot defender we saw on the Philadelphia Eagles during their Super Bowl run.

He had nice moments in coverage and was a force around the line of scrimmage registering a tackle for a loss and six total.

Jenkins played admirably for being on the team for just under a week. He gave up one touchdown late in the game on a play where he lost his footing, but overall seemed to perform well given the circumstances.

It’s unsure how serious Williams’s and Apple’s injuries are, and while the moving around of players worked today, hopefully this won’t be something they will have to rely on going forward.

Offensive Line

Another unit facing injuries and starting two backups, the offensive line had a tough start to the game. The rushing attack didn’t get going until the second half while the pass protection didn’t hold up much in the beginning either. Brees faced a decent amount of pressure and was sacked twice in the first half.

The second half went better overall, finally opening up running lanes for Kamara that allowed him to average nearly ten yards a carry. Brees also had better protection and seemed to get the ball out quicker, going down only once in the second half on a third and long.

Much like the secondary the o-line needs to get healthy sooner rather than later with the playoffs just two weeks away. These injuries make getting that first-round bye all the more important.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Deonte Harris

The New Orleans Saints have finally found their game-changing kick returner the team hasn’t had since Reggie Bush. Harris was an integral part to this game who helped the offense start with good field position throughout the day. On four kick returns he was able to gain 150 yards averaging 37.5 yards per return, and added 21 yards on four punt returns.

The unbreakable record

Once again, Michael Thomas is rewriting the record book like his quarterback. On the back of another 10-plus reception day, Thomas broke Marvin Harrison’s record for most receptions in one season finishing the day at 145 for the year.

The record breaking catch originally went for a touchdown, but was called back after further review. For good measure, he would score two plays later bringing his season total to nine.

Thomas has been nothing short of dominant this year, putting up a ridiculous catch rate as well as recording the most ten plus reception games in one season.