Another December is upon us and the Saints keep marching on. At 10-3 they are the best team in the NFL that no one is talking about.
And they wouldn't want it any other way.
Their latest win came in dramatic fashion with a 22-17 victory over Tennessee in their final outdoor game this regular season.
Let's break it all down.
On a game that featured 19 total penalties (which we will get to next), the Saints need to consider themselves lucky that they didn't get called for not one, but two more flags on the game's chaotic final play.
Quite honestly, when I watched the tape I'd be beside myself if I were Mike Munchack that nothing was called.
On the snap, Tracy Porter completely took Damian Williams to the ground after the five-yard contact zone. Patrick Robinson did the same thing to Marc Mariani who appeared to be running an out-and-up route.
With both receivers out of the play, the Saints had over twice the amount defenders than the Titans had receivers. This allowed Jo Lonn Dunbar to gamble out of coverage and make the sack on Jake Locker.
Who knows if the Titans would've scored with another play but in my opinion the Saints got away with one.
Penalties, Penalties, Penalties
If you are wondering why the game was closer than it should have been, look no further than the penalties.
The Saints could have blown the game wide open had it not been for eight penalties in the first half (11 for the game.) But after further review, it wasn't just the penalties but the plays they negated that were absolute killers.
Five offensive penalties killed gains of 8, 13,13,19 and 81 (Sproles punt return for a touchdown.) Collectively, three first downs and one touchdown were called back.
On defense, Roman Harper's helmet-to-helmet hit on Matt Hasselbeck negated a Saints stop on 3rd down that would have given the Saints the ball back.
Lost in the mix of the Saints record-breaking offense, the emergence of Jimmy Graham and the signing of Darren Sproles is the fact that wide receiver Marques Colston may be playing the best football of his career.
On Sunday he was at it again, with not just making catches, but impact plays. Colston finished the game with seven receptions for 105 yards and two touchdowns. But those two touchdowns were not the only big plays he made during the game. He also had three catches that went for first downs and made two big catches on third down.
Add it all up and Colston finished with seven catches, two touchdowns, three first downs and two 3rd down conversions.
Colston sometimes gets forgotten when talking about some of the games best and most consistent wide receivers. Hopefully, that will change this year and he finally gets the credit he's due and makes his first Pro Bowl.
He's certainly earned it.
Like Calvin Johnson a week before, Gregg Williams was simply not going to let his opponents' best player beat them. And this week that honor went to Chris Johnson.
The Saints completely shut down Johnson on Sunday.
His biggest gain of the game came on the Titans' first offensive play on a reception of 14 yards. Johnson didn't have a rush longer than nine yards. His biggest impact play came in the 4th quarter when he just barely got past and outstretched Patrick Robinson to convert on a 4th&1.
By the end of the game, the Saints made Johnson a non-factor.
- Sunday may have been Shaun Rogers' best game as a Saint. His relentless pursuit was crucial in containing Chris Johnson all game long. Plus, it was his effort that stopped Locker on the 4th&1 in the 4th quarter that we all thought would have won the game.
- Speaking of Locker, should he be the Titans starting quarterback? Locker came in and showed a competitive fire and an ability to overcome adversity to make some big plays and keep his team in it. He ran and threw for a touchdown, was 8-11 in the 4th quarter and nearly stole that game from the Saints.
- Someone has to convince me that this isn't the most impactful rookie quarterback class ever. Between Locker, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder and T.J. Yates, I don't remember more rookie signal-callers making this much impact in their first year. Time will tell how their careers will pan out but at least in year one this class of quarterbacks are second to none.
- Porter pass break-up on the second-to-last play of the game doesn't excuse those three missed open field tackles.
- I saw the Graham non-touchdown catch live and watched it about thirty times since on tape and my conclusion is this: it was all on the referees original call. If the referees called it a touchdown it would've stood but since he called it incomplete there just wasn't enough conclusive evidence to overturn it. I know that's hard for his fantasy-owners to here.
- Champions Stat: Saints: 11-19 on 3rd downs. Titans: 1-10 on 3rd downs.
- To Drew Brees: you are making this look too easy! You have the Who Dat Nation so spoiled that when you throw for you're 4th straight 300-yard game no one seems to care. Well, you're greatness is not lost upon me. To lead the NFL in attempts AND completion percentage is unfathomable to me.
- I don't have a problem with the pass call on 3rd down that was nearly picked off in the 4th quarter. I have a problem with the personnel running it. I understand having Chris Ivory may have been in the Saints best interest because it could've tricked them into thinking it would be run but Ivory is a distant 4th in terms of backs who can catch, while Pierre Thomas is the BEST screen back in the NFL with Sproles as possibly the best checkdown option. While having Sproles in may have given away pass, I think the run-catch threat of Thomas would've given the Saints their best opportunity to convert in that situation. Bad personnel. Not a bad call.
- While penalties are inexcusable for either team, those officials sure were calling it close in the first half!
- The Saints final rushing stats were a bit misleading. While they did finish with 26 carries for 114 yards, 49 of those yards came on the first three carries of the game. After that drive the Saints rushed 23 times for 65 yards.
This game in Minnesota will not be as easy as their record would appear. Saints win but fairly close.