NFC South: LP Field

Wrap-up: Saints 22, Titans 17

December, 11, 2011
Thoughts on the New Orleans Saints' 22-17 victory against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday at LP Field:

What it means: It wasn’t pretty, but the Saints got a win. At 10-3, they’re atop the NFC South. They also recorded their third straight 10-win season, something that had never happened in franchise history. The Saints also moved to 3-2 in outdoor games this season and it’s been mentioned more than a few times that the Saints are not a good outdoor team. But they beat a good team, although Tennessee quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was injured and rookie Jake Locker had to step in. You could make a case the Saints showed they can win outdoors. But the fact that they didn’t win impressively probably will continue to fuel speculation the Saints could face trouble if they have to go to Green Bay or San Francisco in the postseason.

What I liked: The play of Marques Colston. He caught two fourth-quarter touchdown passes. Colston sometimes gets overlooked because the Saints have so many great offensive weapons and his statistics aren’t what they could be if he played in an offense that didn’t spread the ball around so much. But this guy deserves more credit than he gets. He might not be the best receiver in the league, but he’s in the top 10.

What I didn’t like: The Saints moved the ball early, but had to settle for field goals. That rarely happens with the Saints and you have to think this was a one-time thing.

Defense rises: I thought the New Orleans defense played well through most of last week’s victory against Detroit. The defense also stepped up in the final minutes against Tennessee. The Saints stopped the Titans on a fourth-and-1 with a little over two minutes left. Linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar also sacked Locker as time expired.

The streak lives: It took a little longer than usual, but Drew Brees ran his streak of consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass to 40. That’s second on the all-time list. Johnny Unitas (47) holds the record.

What’s next: The Saints play the Minnesota Vikings next Sunday at Mall of America Field.

Rapid Reaction: Saints 31, Lions 17

December, 4, 2011

NEW ORLEANS -- Thoughts on the New Orleans Saints’ 31-17 victory against Detroit on Sunday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

What it means: The Saints are 9-3 and closing in on an NFC South title (of course, the fact Atlanta lost to drop to 7-5 helped). More significantly, the Saints seem to be putting it together at the right time. Since an embarrassing loss to St. Louis on Oct. 30, the Saints have been very impressive in four straight victories. Their defense was especially good early on against the Lions. Receiver Calvin Johnson was held to two catches in the first half. The offense had pretty much put the game away by halftime. Speaking of the defense, I don’t think that it was any coincidence this performance came as middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, the unquestioned leader of the defense, returned from a knee injury.

Weird stat of the night: Believe it or not, this was the third straight game in which the Saints, who are known for their prolific offense, did not score a touchdown in the first quarter. They scored only a field goal. Last week against the Giants, the Saints did not score in the first quarter. In a victory against Atlanta two weeks ago, the Saints had only a field goal in the first quarter.

Milestone night: In only his second year, tight end Jimmy Graham went over the 1,000-yard receiving mark. Graham is the first New Orleans tight end to have 1,000 receiving yards in a season.

Redemption time: Second-year cornerback Patrick Robinson got beat on a pass to Titus Young as the Lions were driving late in the second quarter. But Robinson bounced back to block a field-goal attempt as the second quarter ended and the Saints went into halftime with a 24-7 lead.

Three in a row: The Saints clinched their third consecutive winning season. They now have winning seasons in four of coach Sean Payton’s six seasons.

Dome Patrol: The Saints are 6-0 at home this season. The only other time the Saints started off by winning their first six home games was 2009. Yep, that's the season when they won the Super Bowl.

What’s next: The Saints travel to Nashville to play the Tennessee Titans at LP Field next Sunday.