Thursday, November 25, 2010

Week 12 Review: Indian Giving on Saintsgiving

How many Saints fans suffered from severe indigestion on Thursday afternoon unrelated to Aunt Gracie's turkey dressing?

After jumping out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter, the New Orleans Saints began giving the game away allowing and at times facilitating a Dallas comeback that had the Cowboys leading 27-23 with possession of the ball with just over three minutes remaining in regulation.

And then safety Malcolm Jenkins, who was listed as questionable going into the game, made an amazing play against Dallas wide receiver Roy Williams that later led to another amazing play by the Saints offense that put the Black and Gold up for good, as they reclaimed victory from the jaws of defeat.

The Saints, playing in their first ever Thanksgiving Day game and in the new Cowboys Stadium, moved up a half-game above the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (not counting the Saints' tie-breaker advantage) and trail the Atlanta Falcons by a half-game (also not counting Atlanta's tie-breaker advantage). Both teams play on Sunday, with Tampa Bay visiting the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta hosting the Green Bay Packers.

The Saints had no shortage of heroes on Thursday. Quarterback Drew Brees had an impressive (first half) though not optimal (second half) day, completing 23 of 39 passing attempts (59%) for 352 yards, a touchdown and an interception that was tipped by his intended receiver (rookie tighe end Jimmy Graham) into the hands of a Cowboys defensive back Gerald Sensabaugh.

Helping Brees make some of the tough completions was deep threat wide-out Devery Henderson, who made a number of impressive catches, including a sliding reception for 57 yards that got the Saints into the Dallas red zone on the fourth offensive play of the game.

Wide receiver Marques Colston also had a good day, making 6 catches for 105 yards. Though wide receiver Robert Meachem only had one catch in the game, it was a critical 55 yard catch on 3-10 on the Saints' 33-yard line that set up a Brees touchdown pass to wide receive Lance Moore on the very next play.

Though a certain running back returned to the active lineup, who's name will not be mentioned- at least at this point, undrafted free agent Chris Ivory and ex-Cowboy Julius Jones rushed for a combined 83 yards. Ivory added to his young career touchdown total with two on the afternoon while Jones led the team in ground yards with an average of 4.5 per carry.

The kicking game was strong, if not scary at times. Though often not cited because of the non-scoring nature of his job, punter Thomas Morstead, who is making a play for the Pro Bowl, had a great game, booming one punt for 64 yards. Kicker Garrett Hartley went 3 for 3 in the field goal department with a long of 50 yards, which came close to the side of the goal post. Hartley also had some luck on a kickoff that just bounced out of bounds past the end zone pylon.

The defense played very well in the first half but was worn down in the second half, especially due to the turnovers by the Saints. Dallas quarterback Jon Kitna picked on Saints rookie cornerback Patrick Robinson by throwing in his direction.

Saints defensive end Will Smith had a good game with a sack, an interception and a forced fumble. In fact, the Saints "d" forced three fumbles and the Cowboys coughed the ball up four other times, though they were able to recover those, yet another example of the ball literally not bouncing the Saints' way this season.

The Saints fell victim to a trick play early in the third quarter when Dallas wide receiver Miles Austin rushed 60 yards for a touchdown, thanks in no small part to a blatant hold by a Dallas player on Jenkins.

But the Saints free safety got his revenge in the end and has the distinction of earning the 2010 edition of the "Robeert Meachem Man of Steal Award". Though Williams had already secured a game icing first down reception in Saints territory with three minutes left in the game, the Dallas receiver tried to stretch it to the end zone. Enter Jenkins, exit the ball and the Cowboys' almost certain upset.

Finally there was the goat, AKA the most anticipated return of an injured Saints player. After dropping what would have been a touchdown reception that led to a Saints field goal, one whole yard rushing and fumbling a Cowboy punt that set them up for a touchdown that put them back in the game, one has to wonder if George W. Bush isn't more popular in New Orleans these days than Reginald A. Bush.

Adding insult to injury for number 25 was that his ex-girlfriend Kim Kardashian's new boyfriend, Miles, had a better day rushing the ball than Bush- and Miles isn't a running back.

On Thanksgiving afternoon, the Saints started strong, then played sloppy, then desperate before Jenkins's made some magic. After that, the Saints offense returned to their earlier form executing the big play and then the score.

In addition to whatever morale boost the players receiving from upending the team that snapped their 13-game winning streak last season, the Saints salvaged a conference win that will help come tie-breaker time and keeps the Black and Gold in the hunt for the division while also solidifying their position as a playoff team, wild card or otherwise.

Though the final score wasn't as pretty as the first quarter score, the Saints helped their chances of getting a return date in Jerry Jones's palace of sport in February.

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