The New Orleans Saints were a little late to the party, but showed up in time to make it a coronation for one of their greats. New Orleans struggled out of the gate on offense, going three and out on their first two drives and scoreless in the first quarter. The Saints were back on their heels defensively through the first quarter, giving up 143 yards and two long touchdowns to fall quickly behind 14-0.
Tight end Jared Cook got the offense rolling with an electrifying catch and run for a 61-Yd touchdown early in the second quarter, his first of two scores on the day. Quarterback Drew Brees was efficient when his team needed it most, throwing for 279 yards and 3 touchdowns despite injuries along his offensive line.
New Orleans stormed into control of the game over the next three quarters. A banged up defense pressured the Titans passing attack relentlessly, racking up five sacks and having two more reversed by questionable penalties. A.J. Klein had 2 sacks, while Cameron Jordan and Demario Davis had 1 each while contributing numerous pressures. Marshon Lattimore provided outstanding coverage on Titans rookie star A.J. Brown for the Saints' battered secondary. Both Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and Patrick Robinson came up with big plays for the unit down the stretch to seal the win. Despite the slow start, New Orleans showed resiliency in coming back on the road. Here were some of the biggest performers in the win.
Harris has evolved into the most dangerous kick returner in the NFL. The undrafted rookie Pro Bowler had a number of vital returns against Tennessee that kept the field position advantage for his team. Harris averaged 37.5 yards per kickoff return and set his offense up near midfield on four different occasions.
Harris has added another dimension to a New Orleans team already in possession of a pressure oriented defense and a dangerously balanced offense with one of the most reliable kickers in the game and a punter capable of flipping field position advantage.
Kamara has been one of the NFL's quietest superstars over the last two months. Still a valuable part of the New Orleans offense and major focus of defensive game plans, Kamara just hasn't been as dynamic over the last half of this year.
Kamara had the type of game Sunday that shows why defenses fear him. He burst over left guard and sprinted for a 40-Yd touchdown on the third play of the second half to give New Orleans their first lead of the day. He'd follow that up with a short touchdown on the following drive and finished the day with 120 total yards on 17 touches. While defenses through the league fear his gamebreaking versatility, Kamara has continued to do the little things to help his offense even when contained himself. On the Saints' first touchdown of the day, tight end Jared Cook took a Drew Brees throw down the left sideline for a 61-Yd score. On the play, it was Kamara who provided the block on a defensive back to give Cook the running room he needed.
New Orleans will likely need the explosive Alvin Kamara to make a run at the Super Bowl. But rest assured Saints fans, Kamara's effort and desire has never wavered.
Davis was ridiculously overlooked for a Pro Bowl berth earlier in the week, then proceeded to make the Titans offense pay for that snub. He led all defensive players with 11 tackles in the game, including two for loss and a quarterback sack. Davis was all over the field as always. He applied heavy pressure on Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill on several plays, played the run at his usual high level, and was extremely active in pass coverage.
Thomas came into the game needing ten catches to tie Marvin Harrison for the NFL record for receptions in a season. He tied the record with a 20-Yd fourth quarter catch from Taysom Hill. Thomas then became the new NFL record holder with his usual precision, turning his defensive coverage completely around for a 14-Yd grab from Drew Brees to position his team for the game-clinching score. Two plays later he would corral his 145th catch and ninth touchdown of the season to put the game away.
Thomas' 145 receptions and 1,688 receiving yards both lead the league. His 5,475 career receiving yards has set a new league standard for a wideout in his first four seasons. He has been as dominant as any wide receiver that's ever played at this stage of his career, and has been successful regardless of how defenses attempt to play him.
Congratulations to Michael Thomas, the new record holder for receptions in a single season!
Who had the most impressive performance in the New Orleans victory over the Titans?
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