NOT DONE YET: Saints Rally to Beat Titans and Keep Top Playoff Spot Within Reach

Photo courtesy of the New Orleans Saints on

One day when they are writing about the story of the 2019 New Orleans Saints football season for the NFL history books, there isn’t any doubt that yesterday’s come-from-behind 38-28 victory at Nissan Stadium in downtown Nashville, Tennessee against the Titans, will have its very own chapter in that story.

That’s not only because Saints All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas shattered the NFL’s record for catches (145) in a single season with a breath-taking individual performance that included the game-clinching TD with less than 3 minutes remaining, but also because the Black and Gold — after only what could be considered as a horrendous start to the game — rallied from an early 14-0 deficit to win their 12th game of the year.

But perhaps more importantly: the Saints remained alive and well for an opportunity to earn the NFC’s top seed once the NFL Playoffs begin in just slightly less than 2 weeks from now. That said, they sure didn’t do it the “easy way”.

Aided by penalties committed on both sides of the football which included several holding calls on both the offensive and defensive lines; as well as some notable instances of some-rather poor tackling by the New Orleans secondary which included a 49-yard run on an end-around by Titans rookie WR A.J. Brown, the Saints quickly found themselves in a hole and initially appeared destined to “mail this in one in” as a bad performance.

But by doing so, it would have been taking a loss that would have certainly eliminated them from any possible opportunity of earning the top Playoff seed in the NFC, which will be determined once and for all next weekend in the League’s final regular season games of this soon-to-be-ending 2019 NFL Season.

However, the Saints were able to manage to add a field goal by kicker Wil Lutz to narrow the score to 14-3 early on during the 2nd Quarter; and then after forcing a Tennessee punt following a sack of Titans starting QB Ryan Tannehill, the Saints quickly struck once again.

Saints veteran QB Drew Brees hit tight end Jared Cook for a phenomenal 61-yard TD pass on a -run-and-catch that was aided by a key block by RB Alvin Kamara (who had one of his best games of the season as well yesterday), which allowed Cook to sprint down the left sidelines untouched for the score. It was one of two receiving TD’s recorded by Cook on the day.

It was that one play which seemed to “fire up” and inspire the entire Saints team as well as the coaching staff, and despite some nervous moments at times by the Saints secondary (which lost starting #2 CB Eli Apple to an ankle injury early in the 1st Quarter) that saw the game slowly become somewhat of a “shoot-out” by both teams on the offensive side of the ball throughout the 2nd Half, the Saints hung on for the victory and improved their overall win-loss record on the year to (12-3).

As noted, the Saints were aided by the outstanding individual contributions of several performers which included Thomas (more on him in a minute), Cook, Brees (3 passing TD’s), Kamara (two rushing TD’s), and two stand-out rookies: kick returner Deonte Harris (who tallied 150 yards total in kick return yardage) and rookie strong safety Chauncey-Gardner Johnson, whose key fumble return late in the 4th Quarter set up the eventual game-winning score by Thomas.

After the game had ended, a relieved Saints head coach Sean Payton reflected on the importance of yesterday’s come-from-behind win at Nashville.

“It was good to get a win be it we started off slow, did a few things to get that momentum shifted, Payton told reporters in his post-game press conference. “Special teams gave us some good returns today, and offensively we got going, and I think we played a lot better in the second quarter and better in the second half. It was a good win to get on the road against a good football team we played today.”

But clearly, the day and the biggest story of yesterday’s game was the performance by Thomas, who caught 12 more passes yesterday for a total of 136 yards, as he broke the NFL record that was previously set 17 years ago back during the 2002 NFL Season, by then Indianapolis Colts WR and now retired wide receiving legend Marvin Harrison. With one regular season game still left remaining, Thomas now has (145) catches and a total of 1,688 receiving yards along with 9 TD receptions.

After the game, the 4th year sensation shared his thoughts on his accomplishments yesterday and throughout the course of this season, with reporters in the visiting locker room.

“We’re just so locked in and focused on playing that perfect game, winning as many games as we can and staying in the moment” Thomas stressed. “So, it’s hard. I broke the record and caught a lot of passes, but it’s just like, what I was doing that for, was for my team. So, I wasn’t really looking at the stat sheet, but I was making sure I caught the passes and added value to my team. That’s ultimately what I’m here to do, and I feel like as long as I continue to do that I’ll catch more passes and break more records.”

“To be honest, it doesn’t really mean nothing. We got the victory. We’re trying to play and go to a championship right now, and at the end of the season we’ll look up and see all the things we accomplished. But right now we’re focused on one common goal, and that’s a championship.”

The Saints’ win over Tennessee yesterday now has put them temporarily back into the #2 overall Playoff seed in the NFC (which would allow them a week off of rest in the 1st Round), behind the current #1 seed San Francisco 49ers, with only next week’s final regular season games left still left remaining to play.

They will remain the #2 seed just so long as the current #3 seed Green Bay Packers — who travel to face current #6 seed Minnesota tonight — are defeated by the Minnesota Vikings on ESPN Monday Night Football. Green Bay holds the tie-breaker over the Saints at the moment, because they have a better overall conference record within the NFC.

As far as earning the #1 overall seed, the Black and Gold would need both Green Bay to lose to Minnesota tonight, and have the 49ers lose next week in the final game of the 2019 NFL Season, when they face the Seattle Seahawks (who the Saints have already beaten earlier, back during Week #3 at Seattle).

The Saints will finish their regular season schedule next Sunday at 12:00 p.m. Central time at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, where they will travel to face the Carolina Panthers.

Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium. He is the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius

Help Keep Big Easy Magazine Alive

Hey guys!

Covid-19 is challenging the way we conduct business. As small businesses suffer economic losses, they aren’t able to spend money advertising.

Please donate today to help us sustain local independent journalism and allow us to continue to offer subscription-free coverage of progressive issues.

Thank you,
Scott Ploof
Big Easy Magazine

Share this Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *