New Orleans overcomes a two-touchdown deficit; Tennessee can’t stop the air attack.
The Saints win against Tennessee Sunday keeps them in the hunt for the #1 seed in the NFC. For the Titans, the loss vs. the Saints puts them in a must-win next week against Houston.
After an exchange of punts between the two teams the Titans took the game by the throat, squeezed and drew first blood.
On their second drive, Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill hit Jonnu Smith on a ten-yard slant that he took for a 41-yard catch and run for the first score of the game.
After a Saints three-and-out, the Titans only took three plays to strike again this time with a 49-yard jet sweep from super rookie wideout A.J. Brown.
The Titans’ first two scoring drives only took 3:53 on eight plays totaling 143 yards.
But it was a tale of two quarters, and the Saints made the period number two the French quarter.
The Saints first drive of the second went 13 plays and a produced a Will Lutz field goal.
A few drives later Drew Brees would hit Jared Cook on a 61-yard touchdown pass to cut the Titan lead, 14-10.
New Orleans defense clamped down and the Titans could do nothing offensively mustering only 34 yards on their four second-quarter drives.
Furthermore, would New Orleans keep the burners hot torching the Titans secondary underneath?
With one minute gone in the third quarter Saints back, Alvin Kamara blazed up the middle of the usually reliable Titans’ run defense for a 40-yard touchdown scamper. Saints led 17-14.
The next Saints drive had Brees attacking Tennessee with a barrage of passes culminating in a one-yard Kamara touchdown run.
Tannehill and the Titans would answer with a 36-yard touchdown pass to Tajae Sharpe to make it 24-21.
But the Saints on their next possession said, “shut it” and Brees would hit Cook for the second time on a 16 yard touchdown pass to make it a ten-point game going into quarter number four.
Subsequently, Tajae Sharpe would open the fourth-quarter scoring with a seven-yard touchdown reception to cut the Saints’ lead to three.
After a fake punt by New Orleans put the Titans in position to take the lead and/or tie, the next Tennessee drive would prove to be disastrous.
A 23-yard reception by Kalif Raymond would have put the Titans in Saints’ territory, but a C.J. Gardner-Johnson forced fumble would abort the Tennessee threat.
Finally, Drew Brees would hit superstar Michael Thomas for a 16-yard touchdown to essentially put a wood stake in the heart of the Titans. Saints dramatically win 38-28.
Drew Brees’ three touchdowns upped his NFL record for career touchdown passes to 544. Brees is also the career yardage leader as well. His 279 thrown on Sunday extends his record to 77,163 yards.
Brees needs 2,653 more yards to pass Anthony Calvillo’s all-time professional career passing yardage record. Calvillo threw 79,816 yards in the CFL from 1994 to 2013.
Titans kicker Ryan Succop has been 1/6 this year in field goal tries in 2019. He didn’t miss any on Sunday. That’s because he was placed on injured reserve.
The Saints’ Michael Thomas broke Marvin Harrison’s single-season reception record of 143 set in 2006. Thomas would finish Sunday at 145.
Despite dropping two in a row, Ryan Tannehill has been fire for Tennessee. The 31-year-old has had a career year in his first year with the Titans. His 9.6 yards a passing attempt and 116.5 ratings are both career highs. His four rushing touchdowns in 2019 are also career marks.
The Tannehill underbelly has been the sacks. Well, more of the offensive line’s big underbellies. In the nine games Tannehill has been in, he’s been sacked 31 times, including five on Sunday. His 10.4% sack percentage per dropback is his highest since his last year in Miami.
The Saints/Titans (Oilers) connection runs deep. Besides both playing in domes (Saints-Superdome, Oilers-Astrodome) legends Earl Campbell, Coach Bum Phillips and Kenny “The Snake” Stabler all spent time with both franchises.
Henry Getting Better
Titans pro bowl running back Derrick Henry sat out with that nagging hamstring. Dion Lewis carried the load rushing for 68 yards and the team as a whole rushed for 149. Henry will be back next week in that crucial Houston matchup.
Playoff Scenarios for Both Teams
Undoubtedly the most crucial stat was keeping pace with San Francisco in the playoff race. The Saints (13-3) are currently tied record-wise with the 49ers. New Orleans lost to San Francisco early this season, so the tiebreaker goes to the Niners. The Saints need to win next week and need the Niners to lose as well to become the #1 seed. They also need help from the Packers. Green Bay would need to lose one of their next two games to clinch that coveted home-field advantage.
For Tennessee (8-7), they need more help getting into the playoffs than Aunt Becky’s kids did getting into USC. The Texans won Sunday clinching the AFC South, so next week’s matchup with the Texans is now dire for Tennessee. The easiest avenue is to beat Houston. Win, they in. If they lose to the Texans, they would need Pittsburgh to lose next week as well as the Colts.
Both the Saints and Titans have important games next week. The Saints have a trip to Carolina and could end Sunday night anywhere between the #1 and #3 seeding in the NFC playoffs. Tennessee is in a do-or-die situation. Win and they’re in. A loss and no help from the Steelers and Colts, and they’ll be watching the playoffs on the couch like me.
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