Saints Slay San Francisco for Sixth Straight Win

By Terrance Turner

In a wild slugfest that had injuries galore, the New Orleans Saints beat the San Francisco 49ers today. In the New Orleans Superdome, the Saints took advantage of 49ers’ mistakes to earn their sixth consecutive win. The Saints triumphed, 27-13.

The 49ers jumped out to an early 10-0 lead in the first half. They surprised both their opponents and observers with their strong play, led by backup quarterback Nick Mullins. (He’s replacing QB Jimmy Garoppolo, who’s on injured reserve. So is tight end George Kittle.) But just when it looked like the 49ers might pull off an upset, the Saints scored 27 unanswered points.

The scoring started with a Saints field goal and touchdown run by running back Alvin Kamara. That tied the game, 10-10. Late in the second quarter, Saints wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith made a crucial catch, but had the ball knocked out by a San Francisco defender. On the way down, Smith got sandwiched by two 49ers, with each hitting him on opposite sides of his head. Smith lay motionaless on the ground for several minutes. He eventually walked to the locker room; he would not return. Smith was ruled out with a concussion.

But the Saints scored again. With 1:19 left in the half, they had reached first and goal. Saints QB Drew Brees dropped the ball but picked it up and tossed it Kamara. Left open, Kamara practically jogged into the end zone for another touchdown. That left the score 17-10 at halftime. But Brees left the game at halftime with a rib injury. He would remain on the sideline for the second half.

And what a second half it was. The 49ers managed to stall the Saints and hold them to a field goal. But Wil Lutz’s field goal still put the Saints ahead 20-10. The third quarter was scoreless. But in the fourth quarter, a series of miscues and injuries made for a wild ride.

A punt by the Saints landed in the hands of 49ers wide receiver Richie James. But the ball fell right through his hands, and Saints receiver Marquez Callaway pounced on it. The Saints took over and powered down the field. Kamara waltzed into the end zone once again for his third touchdown of the day.

But on a subsequent series, Saints safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson was injured on a tackle. That was just one among a series of injuries. Smith had been ruled out with a concussion; Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore was also out with an oblique injury, according to CBS. (Saints coach Sean Payton said Drew Brees will get an MRI on his ribs. His status for next week’s game is in question, according to Adam Schefter.) Despite the injuries, the Saints kept on ticking.

As the fourth quarter wound down, the 49ers threatened a comeback. Kicker Robbie Gould drilled a 40-yard field goal to make the score 27-13. The Saints took over, with backup QB (and Swiss Army knife) Taysom Hill. Hill moved down the field with some strong runs…until he fumbled the ball. San Francisco began a surprisingly effective drive. With a solid run game and Mullins’ hurling passes, the 49ers made it all the way to the 20-yard line. But with 2:25 left, Mullins threw an intreception! Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson caught the ball, sealing the win for the Saints.

The Saints improve to 7-2. This is the sixth consecutive win for the Saints. They play the Falcons next week.

National Tight Ends Day

By Terrance Turner

Oct. 25, 2020 (Updated Oct. 28)

Today is National Tight Ends Day. Although this may sound like a made-up holiday, San Francisco tight end George Kittle designated the day as the last Sunday in October. Kittle is one of the league’s leading tight ends, along with Chiefs TE Travis Kelce and Buccaneers TE Rob Gronkowski. Kittle explained the holiday in a video:

Kittle credited San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo with the holiday’s genesis. “I’m pretty sure it was a day [that] all the tight ends were active, and so Jimmy G was like, ‘What is it, national tight end day’?” Kittle recalled. That moment sparked Kittle to establish the occasion for the last Sunday in October.

Famous for his aggressive, exuberant play, Kittle has become one of the league’s premier tight ends. He is frequently ranked among the league’s best at his position, along with Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. (The two faced each other in this year’s Super Bowl, with Kelce’s Chiefs besting Kittle’s 49ers 31-20.) Both Kelce and Kittle are known for their fun-loving approach to the game of football: Kelce is known to celebrate touchdowns with funny dances; Kittle will laugh hysterically after pancake-blocking a defender.

Both of them noticed the other’s festive style. Kittle studied film of Kelce while in college at Iowa. “I think the thing that really kind of stands out the most is you see his personality when he plays and how much fun he has,” Kittle said. “Very similar to (Rob Gronkowski) and his personality, the way it shows. I think they just kind of opened the door for tight ends like me to be able to express ourselves on the football field.”

Kelce returned the compliment during Super Bowl media week. “George Kittle, man. I was just talking about his tenacity,” Kelce told the NFL Network. “How he runs routes. How he plays the game with a certain level of energy and enthusiasm. Man, you gotta love it.” Both Kelce and Kittle power their respective teams with energetic, enthusiastic play. And that similarity was not lost on Kelce.

“I think we’re both positive guys,” Kelce said with a big smile. “We both love to play the game and, at the same time, we both love life.”

But both match their appetite for fun with high-level play. Kelce is tied for the NFL record for the most seasons by a tight end with 1,000 or more receiving yards (four seasons and counting), according to FOX Sports. In 2018, Kittle broke the record for most receiving yards by a tight end, racking up 1,377 receiving yards (His 88 catches that season were also the most for his position.) Kittle broke the previous record of 1,327 yards, set by legendary tight end Rob Gronkowski. But that’s far from the only record Gronk has set.

While with the Patriots in 2011, Gronkowski racked up those 1,327 yards and 17 touchdown catches — the most ever by a tight end. He had 18 total touchdowns that year, also the most ever for a tight end in a season. (A pass Gronk caught for a score against the Colts was later ruled a lateral pass, making it a rushing TD. “My first rushing touchdown ever,” Gronk marveled after the game.) Gronkowski became the first tight end EVER to lead the league in receiving touchdowns, according to NFL.com.

Additionally, Gronkowski is the first player at his position to have 10+ touchdowns and 1000+ receiving yards in three different seasons (2011, 2014-2015). He had three consecutive seasons with 10 or more touchdown catches (2010-12). He has the most catches (23) and receiving yards (297) by a tight end in Super Bowl history, according to USA Today. His gloves are on display at the Patriots Hall of Fame.

And he’s not done yet.

Last week, Gronk caught his first TD of the season during a 38-10 win against the Packers. It was his first touchdown as part of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — and his first in nearly two years. (Gronkowski retired briefly in 2019, citing health concerns.) On Sunday — National Tight Ends Day — he caught another touchdown from Tom Brady. That was the 92nd touchdown between them. Brady and Gronk are now tied for second place on the all-time list. The only quarterback-receiver duo to connect for more touchdowns is Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison.

Like Kelce and Kittle, Gronkowski also likes to have fun — on and off the field. His parties are legendary: he had a traveling party bus in 2015 and a party boat in 2016. He even hosted a topless pool party in Vegas in 2012, as seen below.

Rob Gronkowski Hosts Topless Pool Party

Gronk has cemented his legacy as one of the league’s best tight ends. But the true GOAT may be Tony Gonzalez. The tight end played 12 seasons for the Chiefs and five more for the Atlanta Falcons between 1997 and 2013. In the process, he racked up a ton of dazzling stats. Gonzalez is the all-time leader for receptions (1,325) and receiving yards (15,127) at his position, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com. He also has the most career touchdowns (76) in Chiefs franchise history. Gonzalez joined Gronk, Kelce and Kittle for a sitdown earlier this year, just before the Super Bowl. Gronkowski noted that “this is the first time in history, I would say, that the two top tight ends in the league are in the Super Bowl, facing each other. What’s that relationship like?”

Find out in the video below.

UPDATE: Tight end Hayden Hurst made a crucial catch tonight for the Falcons. Quarterback Matt Ryan threw the ball so low that it nearly hit the ground, but Hurst reached out his arms and caught the ball with his fingertips. The ball touched the ground as Hurst reeled it in, but upon further review the catch was upheld. The crucial catch eventually led to a field goal. The Falcons eventually won the game, 25-17.

Catch the crazy play below.

UPDATE (JUNE 28, 2021): Last week, Kittle, Kelce and former NFL tight end Greg Olsen teamed up over the weekend for what they called “Tight End University”. ESPN explains: “The three-day event offered a chance for some of the best tight ends in the NFL to come together to share trade secrets both on and off the field.” At Lipscomb Academy field in Nashville, 49 tight ends gathered to learn from each other.

The event ran from Wednesday through Friday. An article on the 49ers website said that the three-day summit focused on technique, film study, on-field drills, rehab and recovery. “The event kicked off with a welcome reception on Wednesday. On Thursday, the focus shifts to training and drills before culminating with a youth football camp.” On Friday, the players hit the weight room for what was called “Arm Farm Day”.

The event ended with a bang when country singers Luke Bryan and Morgan Wallen joined the players for a few rounds of golf: