Sunday’s game was one of the messiest, and ugliest I’ve seen in a long time. It wasn’t a show time performance by the offense that had Drew Brees lighting up the sky with deep balls but more of a pedestrian approach that was aided by an outstanding game by the Saints defense in a 20-0 shutout victory over the Miami Dolphins at Wembley Stadium in jolly old London.
It couldn’t have started out worse. The first half was a quagmire of mistakes and ho-hum efforts from both teams. The actual game-winning play might have happened on the first drive as the Dolphins marched down the field and were looking to go up early before Ken Crawley stepped in front of Mr. Personality Jay Cutler’s pass in the end zone to keep the game scoreless.
Later in the half, and after Wil Lutz missed an easy 41-yard field goal to keep the game scoreless it seemed to be a day where no one would score and everyone in England would be happy because of their soccer-weirdness. Plus, whenever a team started to get momentum the referees stepped in and threw one of an insane 19 flags throughout the course of the contest, most of those coming in the quicksand of a first half and all of them killing momentum. To put it another way, the entire first half was one giant kick in the Blarney stones.
Luckily for Saints fans it was a tale of two halves as Brees (29-41, 268 yards, 2 TD’s) and company hit the pitch with a little fire to start the second half. Mark Ingram, the only back not named Alvin Kamara who should be on the field, went between the tackles for six yards. Next, Brees hit Brandon Coleman for 31 yards and the Saints were in business.
The Saints continued to march and when Brees hit Michael Thomas (8 catches, 89 yards) in the end zone to put the Saints up 10-0 a collective exhalation swept through the city as everyone contemplated playoff runs and fish-n-chips.
It was also all that Cam Jordan and company would need as they chased, harassed and pressured Cutler with a four-sack performance in their first shutout since beating Tampa Bay 41-0 way back in 2012. It’s the second week in a row that the defense has collected four sacks and now has only given up 13 points over the last eight quarters. Of course, the Dolphins offense is — pardon my English — complete bollocks and is already on life support but this is the type of effort a team builds upon.
The same can be said for the Saints offense as it was all “Lights, Kamara, Action” in the second half. Kamara would grab 10 catches for 71 yards including a 12-yard shovel pass for a touchdown that put the coffin in the nail and the Saints on a happy flight back across the pond.
Wild First Four Weeks
So, the Saints (2-2) are back to .500 after winning their second straight in a wild turnaround from the beginning of the season. A season, which is a perfect microcosm of what is going on around the NFL.
Hold on to your bowler and try to wrap your noodle around this puzzle. The Saints get crushed by the Patriots, then go and crush the Carolina Panthers and then the Panthers crush the Patriots. Say what now?
It’s a world in which the Cowboys and Raiders are sitting in third place and the Jacksonville Panthers are tied for first place. No team in the NFC South has a losing record after years where that was the norm. The Buffalo Bills have back-to-back wins over the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons and are in first place looking back at the Patriots. Thank god for the winless Cleveland Browns who have the common decency to let us know some things will never change.
After all this the Saints are sitting one game out of first place heading into the bye week. After the bye week, the Saints will play three straight weeks of NFC North football and then hopefully be in position to make a run for the division title, with five games remaining against their NFC South rivals.
Things could get interesting as the Saints expect Terron Armstead and Willie Snead to rejoin the offense after the bye week and immediately improve an already tough offense. But that’s for next week, kick back and enjoy this off week New Orleans. You deserve this one.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: Nola Brewing’s English Style Brown Ale
Playlist Recommendation: The Clash – “London Calling”
Around the Way
It’s not overseas but there are real football games being played in Uptown as well. The Tulane Green Wave (2-2) are creating a buzz with solid play and have some even whispering, “Bowl game,” around the internets.
Tulane takes on the Tulsa Golden Hurricane (1-4) this Saturday at 3 p.m. with a much-needed victory on the line. Get out to Yulman Stadium and watch the Crescent City’s rising star Jonathan Banks and a stingy Green Wave defense try to bring home an important victory for the school’s bowl dreams.