Saints start slow before surging past Titans

  • icon
  • icon
  • icon
  • icon


Next man up.

The elite teams understand the concept better than those who are average and going nowhere.

There are plenty of average teams in the NFL and several below average teams. The New Orleans Saints are in the elite category.

The Saints continue to overcome key injuries in the midst of what could be a special season.

Playing without both starting guards, the Saints lost a starting cornerback in the first quarter. They were also without two starting defensive linemen and a starting linebacker.

At any level, particularly in the NFL, that is a tremendous mountain to climb, to overcome.

Then, the Saints had to overcome a largely awful first half at Nashville on a rainy day Sunday.

Suffice it to say that they did.

Drew Brees overcame a slow start to remain red hot while Michael Thomas set an NFL record for receptions in a season. Both players are at the very top of their profession in the league, one at a young age, the other at the age of 40.

New Orleans is now 12-3 and squarely alive in the chase for the top seed in the NFC, at least for a top two spot and a bye.

That is a result of a 38-28 win at Tennessee Sunday in which New Orleans overcame a 14-0 deficit to post a huge win.

Here are my Quick Takes from the victory:

**Andrus Peat and Larry Warford both missed the game injured, resulting in Nick Easton and Will Clapp starting. After a slow start, Easton and Clapp stepped up their game.

Each team got a stop to start the game. New Orleans lost about 20 yards in field position when Dwayne Washington was flagged for holding on a punt return by Deonte Harris.

Ryan Tannehill then shredded the Saints’ pass defense, completing 3-of-3 passes for 72 yards, the final completion being a 41-yard touchdown pass to Jonnu Smith to give Tennessee a 7-0 lead with 7:55 to play in the opening quarter. The drive covered 73 yards in five plays, taking 2:42 off the clock.

**On the touchdown, it appeared Smith was the responsibility of a linebacker. He was wide, wide open.

**Then, Harris returned then ensuing kickoff 41 yards to the New Orleans 43-yard line. A holding call on Terron Armstead on a screen pass to Josh Hill that would have been a first down killed the drive.

**Then, Ryan Ramczyk, a total snub for Pro Bowl honors, gave up his first sack of the season to Derick Roberson, forcing a punt. It was the first sack allowed in 112 pass attempts by the Saints.

**AJ Brown took an end around 49 yards for a Titans score to make it 14-0 and put the Saints in a daunting hole early.

**It started raining in the second quarter.

**The Saints finally put a drive together, very slowly at that. They went 41 yards in 13 plays, taking 6:09 off the clock. Two false start penalties on Nick Easton hurt quite a bit before Brees was sacked by Jurrell Casey, who stunted and fooled New Orleans. Erik McCoy had to try to block two players. Those are bad odds.

**Wil Lutz came on and booted a 47-yard field goal to make it 14-3 with 13:36 to play in the half.

**Eli Apple went down with an ankle injury and he was replaced by Patrick Robinson, who would go on to play an excellent game.

**A.J. Klein had a pair of sacks in the first half.

**The offense finally got it done when Brees connected with Jared Cook on a 61-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-10 with 2:23 to play in the half. It was the longest pass completion of the season for Brees.

**On the play, Cook got a free release out of the slot and popped open. He made a tackler miss and then got a good block by Alvin Kamara and went the distance.

**New Orleans ended the first half with nine penalties for 65 yards and with just 31 yards rushing, 15 of which came on the final play of the half when the Titans let them have it. Another seven came on a run by Taysom Hill.

**The Saints took their first lead immediately to start the second half. Brees made a brilliant audible call to running Kamara off left tackle. The call was perfect. Kamara hit the hole and raced 40 yards for a score to make it 17-14 just one minute into the third quarter.

**On the play, Brees saw what he was looking for to make the call. He just got it off as the play clock was down to one second. Nick Easton had an excellent kick-out block on the play.

**It was the first touchdown for Kamara since week three at Seattle.

**The Saints made it 24 unanswered points, driving 70 yards in nine plays, taking four minutes off the clock and Kamara scored on a 1-yard run to make it 24-14 with 7:08 to play in the third quarter.

**Tennessee then got a big play to cut the deficit to four as Tannehill hit Tajae Sharpe on a 36-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to 24-21 with 4:25 to play in the third quarter. The drive covered 75 yards in five plays, taking 2:43 off the clock.

**Harris returned the ensuing kickoff 47 yards to the New Orleans 48-yard line. That set up Brees and he took the Saints 52 yards in five plays. First, Brees connected with Taysom Hill on a 23-yard pass after Hill had converted a third-and-one with a nice run.

**Then, Brees made a perfect throw to Cook, a 23-yard touchdown pass, to make it 31-21 with 1:18 to play in the third quarter.

**Tennessee answered after getting a short field. The Titans pinned the Saints back to their 9-yard line, got a sack of Brees and Thomas Morstead had to punt from the back of the end zone.

**The Titans got the ball at the New Orleans 42-yard line and went 42 yards in six plays with Tannehill hitting Tajae Sharpe on a 7-yard touchdown pass to make it 31-28 with 7:27 to play in the game. On the play, Janoris Jenkins was holding Sharpe, a flag was thrown, but it did not matter.

**New Orleans drove to the Tennessee 38-line, including a completion of 20 yards from Taysom Hill to Thomas to tie the record of Marvin Harrison of 143 catches in a season.

**The drive stalled. On fourth down, Sean Payton called timeout. New Orleans faked a punt, Taysom Hill threw a strike right to Justin Hardee and he dropped the ball.

**Tannehill hit Raymond on a yard completion. He was hit hard to C.J. Gardner Johnson and Janoris Jenkins. Raymond fumbled and Gardner-Johnson recovered and returned it to the Tennessee 25-yard line.

**Thomas got the record on a 13-yard completion from Brees to the 1-yard line. Originally, the play was ruled a touchdown. Upon review, it was ruled that Thomas was down at the 1-yard line.

**Two plays later, Brees hit Thomas on a 2-yard touchdown pass to make it 38-28 with 2:10 to play to put the game away.

It was everything you wanted to see.

Kamara got it going with 11 carries for 80 yards and two touchdowns. He caught six passes for 30 yards.

Thomas finished with 12 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown. He has now caught five passes or more in 20 consecutive games.

Cook had three catches for 84 yards and two scores.

New Orleans forced a turnover, a big one, and did not commit one.

After a first half with the nine penalties for 65 yards, New Orleans had just two for five yards in the second half.

Adjustments were made.

Elite teams find a way to win.

In their last three games, the Saints have scored 46, 34 and 38 points. Brees is playing as well as any quarterback in the NFL. What else is new?

Anyone that questioned paying Thomas the way he was paid in the offseason should come clean now. I was not one of those. It was a great investment in a great player.

Demario Davis was outstanding again with 11 tackles, including a sack. Gardner-Johnson had eight tackles and came up with a huge turnover.

Lutz was solid, as usual.

Harris showed why he is going to the Pro Bowl as a return specialist. He has overcome shaky decisions and ball-handling early in the season to become the best return man in the league.

The Saints will now watch and hope that the Vikings beat the Packers and that the Seahawks beat the 49ers. Of course, New Orleans has to win at Charlotte next week. At this point, I certainly would not bet against that happening.

New Orleans has won 12 games in consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history.

If Kamara plays like he played Sunday, joining Brees, Thomas and Cook as top-tier players in the league, this offense could be unstoppable. Peat figures to return next week. Warford could return by the playoffs. Kiko Alonso should be back very soon as well.

You have to like the way the Saints are trending. Let’s talk again next week and we may still be talking in February.

  • < PREV R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl alive and well heading into 20 years
  • NEXT > New Orleans Catholic League has produced 5 current NFL tight ends

Ken Trahan

CEO/Owner

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…

Read more >