100 Million Dollar Man
New Orleans escapes Nashville with win
It seemed just like yesterday, but a lifetime ago at the same time, when Michael Thomas played his first game for the New Orleans Saints. The then-rookie wide receiver would haul in six catches (on six targets) for 58 yards in a loss to the Oakland Raiders. I guess the “lifetime ago” part is because, yes, Michael Thomas, who seemingly has only won at the NFL level, was part of that last 7-9 team. Ever since those dark days, Thomas has caught a lot of passes and the Saints have collected a ton of wins. The Thomas-Drew Brees tandem has been a sight to see and added a couple of records on Sunday in a bullet-dodging 38-28 victory over a tough Tennessee Titans team.
Thomas went into the record books for most catches in a season with 144, breaking the record held 17 seasons by the Indianapolis Colts Marvin Harrison. It’s an amazing feat but, at this point, not unexpected as Thomas has already set multiple records along the way, including the fastest to 400 catches in a career and most catches in a player’s first four seasons (401). Franchise-wise he owns the records for catches in a season (145 and counting), yards in a season (1,668 and counting), catches in a game (16), yards in a game (211) and so on and so on.
Another low-key stat is that, while it seems like Thomas has been catching 10 balls a game his entire career, in fact he only had nine games with double digit catches his first three years. This year, Thomas has caught the pigskin 10 or more times nine times. That $100 million contract is starting to look like a bargain, especially when you consider the Saints other receivers (besides tight end Jared Cook) don’t inspire much confidence. To put it more bluntly, Ted Ginn Jr. (remember him?), Tre’Quan Smith and Austin Carr have 42 catches total. Woe is the day someone figures out how to take Thomas out of a game.
Oh yeah, I just remembered, Thomas also broke Randy Moss’ record for most receiving yards in the first four years of a career (5,396) and is 16 catches away from having the most catches in the first five years of a career. He’s only in his fourth year. This man is a beast. Can’t guard Mike, indeed.
Saints go 12-3
The Saints would need every one of Thomas’ catches on a weird Sunday that saw the Saints fall behind 14-3 to the Titans. The defense was completely unsettled and looked to have no idea how to defend a Derrick Henry-less Titans offense. The defensive backfield was falling for every play action, Marcus Williams was determined not to wrap anyone up and the Titans had the Saints on their heels. The baffled defense was complemented by a Saints offense that couldn’t get out of its own way and its injury-plagued offensive line was leaking like a sieve. Honestly, aside from Deonte Harris repeatedly setting up the offense with great field position there were literally no highlights in the first quarter and a half. It all added up to feeling like the Saints were not going to bring home a much-needed 12th victory in the race for home field advantage in the NFC. Thankfully the defense settled down and the offense caught on fire.
The defense led the charge in the second quarter, settling down and completely shutting down the opposing offense. Their effort was rewarded by the offense when Brees, who threw a few passes that should have been picked off, finally connected with Jared Cook for a 61-yard touchdown. After an awful first half, the Saints would enter the locker room trailing on 14-10.
The weirdness wouldn’t end there. The Saints seemed to take control during the third quarter, putting up two touchdowns to take a 24-14 lead. The defense continued to dominate the Titans offensive line. On the day, the Saints would record five sacks and 8 tackles-for-loss. However, right when they had the chance to put the game away, it was the Titans Ryan Tannehill rolling to his right on a perfectly defended play and, before you knew it, connecting with Tajae Sharpe, who slipped behind the defense and headed to paydirt to pull the Titans within three points.
Shortly thereafter, after the Saints blew a faked punt attempt the momentum was about to tilt into the Titans favor when Tannehill connected with Kalif Raymond on a 23-yard gain into Saints territory. Unfortunately for Raymond, he was completely blown up by C.J. Gardner-Johnson. Fortunately for the Saints, Raymond fumbled and Gardner-Johnson returned the turnover to the Titans 25-yard line. It was the only turnover on this weird Sunday and proved to be critical. After that, Thomas headed into the record books and the Saints headed home victorious.
The Saints remain alive for Dome field advantage. They obviously need to care of business in Carolina next week and will need the Vikings to beat the Packers tonight and the Seahawks to beat the 49ers in Week 17. It can be done.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: All Relation Beer’s “Bird Sauce” IPA
Playlist Recommendation: My sweet Christmas playlist
Around the Way
Speaking of weird, the Tulane Green Wave basketball team lost two games this weekend. Now you’re asking, “and”? Here’s the thing. Instead of the usual numbness to a team that always loses this weekend’s losses sort of stung because, hold onto your hat, Tulane basketball is improving. A day after losing 62-61 to Akron, Tulane star Teshaun Hightower (who had 33 points) drained a three to force overtime versus Towson. The Wave would eventually lose 86-82 but keep an eye on this team, folks.
The Green Wave close their non-conference schedule at 8-4 on the season and travel to Memphis Dec. 30 to take on the Memphis Tigers in their conference opener.