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Without Lifting a Finger, Saints Gain Early “Advantage” in NFC South

When the New Orleans Saints head into their 2019 NFL Season opening contest later on tonight at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome against the visiting Houston Texans on ESPN Monday Night Football, they’ll do so with the knowledge that at least for tonight, they have an early advantage within the NFC South Division — thanks to all 3 of the division’s other teams having lost their games yesterday.

Atlanta, Carolina, and Tampa Bay all were defeated in their respective season-opening contests, which will allow the Black and Gold to enter into tonight’s opener with an opportunity to take the division lead heading into next week’s scheduled games.

(John Autey / Pioneer Press)

2019 NFC South Standings (Week #1)

1. New Orleans Saints (0-0 overall record; 0-0 division record) – Next vs. Texans (Tonight, ESPN)

2. Carolina Panthers (0-1 overall record; 0-0 division record) – Next vs. Buccaneers (TNF)

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1 overall record; 0-0 division record) – Next at Panthers (TNF)

4. Atlanta Falcons (0-1 overall record; 0-0 division record) – Next vs. Eagles (SNF)

 

With that in mind, here’s how all three of the other NFC South teams fared yesterday……

Minnesota Vikings 28, Atlanta Falcons 12

Photo courtesy of The Minneapolis Star-Tribune

As it’s been well-documented recently, the Saints have lost their last 5 straight season-opening games dating all the way back to the 2014 Season; but as it turns out: their hated arch-rivals the Falcons have a recent history of playing poorly in season-opening games of their very own, under their head coach Dan Quinn.

Last season, the Dirty Birds lost in Philadelphia. The year before that in 2017, Atlanta needed a goal-line stand to beat Chicago. And then yesterday, they were a complete “no-show” on the road at Minneapolis in a 28-12 loss to the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Things took a turn for the worse right off the bat for Atlanta. as their VERY FIRST play of the game was a sack and set the tone for the remainder of the contest. If that wasn’t bad enough. their 4th play of the game was a blocked punt. Things never got any better for the Falcons as Minnesota took a 28-0 lead.

Atlanta did manage to finally score a few “garbage-time” touchdowns to make the score look somewhat respectable; but the honest truth was that they got thoroughly DOMINATED by the Vikings on both sides of the ball.

Minnesota All-Pro RB Dalvin Cook rushed 21 times for 111 yards and two touchdowns; and rookie Alexander Mattison had nine rushes for 49 yards. Overall, the Minnesota offense rushed 38 times for 172 yards and three touchdowns. 

“I knew that was going to be a part of this game to make sure that we could set the edge and get it,” Quinn said to reporters after the game. “When we lost that or they got the ball outside, I thought that was a factor for them getting some of the explosive runs that they had.”

“But we did not get it stopped the way we needed to,” Quinn said.

That goes without saying — and as a result: this morning the Dirty Birds wake up at (0-1).

 

Los Angeles Rams 30, Carolina Panthers 27

Photo courtesy of The Los Angeles Times

While the Dirty Birds were floundering in Minnesota. the Carolina Panthers at least made their game interesting in their loss to the defending NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams at home in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Panthers made a resilient comeback attempt; but ultimately just made too many mistakes to overcome the Rams’ big lead from earlier in the contest.

After a scoreless first quarter, L,A.’s well-balanced and high-powered offensive attack was able to get going and took a 13-3 lead and essentially seemed as if they were going to “coast” towards an easy victory; but not before Carolina eventually got back into the game late.

Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey scored a pair of rushing touchdowns to narrow the gap midway through the final period and then Carolina’s defense actually gave them an opportunity to take the lead with a touchdown, but they simply couldn’t take advantage. Cam Newton was inefficient. and his 239 passing yards and late interception eventually sealed their fate.

But similarly to the Falcons in their loss at Minnesota, Carolina’s defense also struggled at stopping their opponent’s running game. Rams All-Pro RB Todd Gurley had 97 rushing yards, but it was his back-up and Rams #2 RB Malcolm Brown who scored both rushing TD’s.

San Francisco 49ers 31, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17

Photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Times

Speaking of bad QB play, if Saints fans thought that Cam Newton was inefficient, then they certainly had a similar observation yesterday about Buccaneers QB “Famous” Jameis Winston.

The former Heisman Trophy winner and former #1 overall first overall pick out of Florida State University had yet another uninspiring and at-times-downright-horrible performance; as he threw not one but two “Pick-6” interceptions.

With Winston under center. the Bucs offense just couldn’t get going; as Tampa Bay punted twice and fumbled once in the 1st half alone, However, San Francisco had their very own offensive struggles early; and 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo also threw a “Pick 6” interception of his own to Buccaneers CB Vernon Hargreaves.

But Garoppolo and the 49ers offense were eventually able to settle down and took over the lead with a touchdown on the opening drive of the 2nd half. That’s when Winston and the Bucs offense then cracked under pressure on the ensuing drive. with his first “Pick 6” to San Francisco CB Richard Sherman.

Nevertheless: Winston and the Bucs offense managed to get the ball back late in the 4th quarter down by a score of 23-17, and with a chance to STILL put together a game-winning drive. However, “Famous” Jameis threw an interception which was returned for a score by 49ers CB Ahkello Witherspoon, and as a result Tampa would “go down in flames” with yet another under-whelming performance by their starting QB.

Overall statistically. Winston threw for 194 passing yards, one passing touchdown, and had three interceptions. But it is clear that despite the alleged improvement in his play that many NFL observers felt that he would be able to achieve under the influence and guidance of new Buccaneers head coach and QB “whisperer” Bruce Arians, just hasn’t had the effect that many had been hoping for,

And now as the New Orleans Saints head into tonight’s contest, Winston’s notable struggles yesterday are now one more reason why the Black and Gold has taken an early advantage in the NFC South, without lifting a single finger….

 

Saints News Network featured columnist and Big Easy Magazine contributing writer Barry Hirstius is a 52-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and writer previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 45 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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