The New Orleans Saints faced a 14-0 deficit in the first half but responded with 24 unanswered points to take a 24-14 lead in the third quarter.
The turning point of the game came with 4:23 remaining as Tennessee took over on downs after the New Orleans Saints failed to successfully execute a fake punt pass.
Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill hit wide receiver Kalif Raymond as newly signed Saints cornerback Janoris Jenkins wrapped him up. But that’s when Saints safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson nailed Raymond and forced a fumble, giving the football back to the Saints.
New Orleans responded by feeding wide receiver Michael Thomas, who finished the afternoon with 12 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown, surpassing Marvin Harrison’s previous record for most receptions in a season.
With the win, the Saints improved to (12-3) on the year and finished the 2019 campaign undefeated against the AFC South.
This matchup didn’t prove to be a nail-biter like in 2011, but New Orleans overcame a sloppy first quarter by dominating down the stretch.
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The defense gave up two early touchdown drives but made up for it by creating five sacks and coming away with that critical fumble recovery in the fourth quarter.
Jenkins’ presence in the secondary should help this team’s pass coverage improve, as he seems to be an upgrade over cornerback Eli Apple.
As far as the offense in concerned, several holding and false start penalties killed some momentum early on, as the Saints finished the contest with 11 penalties.
Head coach Sean Payton will look to clean up the flag dilemma, but he is sure to have running back Alvin Kamara back in excellent condition.
Kamara reached the end zone for the first time since Week 3 at Seattle, as he scored on two touchdown runs against Tennessee, finishing with 80 yards rushing and 30 yards receiving.
Tight end Jared Cook tore up the Titans’ defense for 3 catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns, including a 61-yard catch-and-run to the house, which was aided by a downfield Kamara block.
It wasn’t the most impressive performance, but it resulted in a win as New Orleans looks to match its (13-3) record from a year ago and clinch a first-round bye in the postseason.
To secure the top seed in the NFC, the Saints will have to defeat the Carolina Panthers on the road, have the Minnesota Vikings win over the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football and the Seattle Seahawks claim the NFC West by knocking off the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday Night Football next week.