After Strong Start by Eagles, Offense Stalls and Jeffery's Crucial Missed Catch Send Philly Packing
Coming into this NFC Divisional Round matchup with the New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles was 4-1 in his postseason career. He took the Eagles all the way to the Super Bowl last season and helped them beat the Bears a week ago. His one career postseason loss came way back in 2013 against the Saints on Wild Card Weekend by a final score of 26-24 at home. Beating New Orleans in the Superdome though, that was an even bigger task considering the Saints were 5-0 in the playoffs under head coach Sean Payton on their home turf. That record would become 6-0 as New Orleans stormed back from an early deficit and got help by cornerback Marcus Lattimore's two interceptions to beat the Eagles 20-14 on Sunday. This was a different game compared to the Week 11 drubbing the Saints manufactured versus the Eagles. It was Philadelphia that got off to the hot start and took control of the game early.
On the very first play of the game, cornerback Cre'Von LeBlanc picked off Drew Brees to give Philly the momentum early. Then out came Nick Foles who went 5-for-5 on his opening drive and hit receiver Jordan Matthews with a 37-yard touchdown pass to put the Eagles in front by seven to start the game. A quick three-and-out later brought Foles back onto the field and he went to work again with a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that ended with him reaching across the goal line for the one-yard rushing touchdown to put Philadelphia in front by 14 points. That is when the New Orleans defense made a play that shifted the momentum in the game when Marcus Lattimore picked off a pass intended for Zach Ertz to halt Philly's march down the field. It looked like the Saints would be punting again as it was fourth-and-one from their own 30-yard line, but Sean Payton's trickery with the fake punt saw backup quarterback Taysom Hill sneak the ball up the middle for the first down. Faced with another fourth and short, this time from Philly's two-yard line, the Saints went for it again and Brees hit Keith Kirkwood for the touchdown to cut the Eagles' lead in half.
After a brief exchange of punts among the teams, the Saints finished out the half with a quick drive that last just over one minute and ended with a 45-yard field goal by Will Lutz to cut Philly's lead to 14-10 before the half. Time-consuming drives and stingy defense was the name of the game for New Orleans in the second half. After forcing a quick three-and-out, Brees began a touchdown drive from his own eight-yard line that would last 18 plays and take just about eleven and a half minutes off the game clock. Despite multiple penalties that set back the Saints on offense, the drive ended with a two-yard touchdown catch by Michael Thomas to put New Orleans in front, 17-14. After the Eagles struggled yet again to do anything on offense, Brees went back to work and got the Saints into field goal range which allowed Will Lutz to attempt and make a 39-yard field goal to push their lead to six points. Yet another quick three-and-out put Philadelphia in a dire situation, needing a stop by their defense and desperately needing to get something going on offense.
But Drew Brees milked more clock and continued to move the ball before eventually the Eagles' defense stood tall. A huge three-yard tackle for a loss by Michael Bennett on Alvin Kamara forced Lutz to kick a 52-yard field goal to give the Saints a two possession lead. He would miss it wide right and the stage was set for the fourth quarter magic of Nick Foles to be unleashed. After barely moving the ball for the entire second half, Foles began slicing apart the Saints' secondary and in just under a minute Philadelphia was at the New Orleans 27-yard line. As the clock neared the two-minute warning, Foles took the second down snap and had Alshon Jeffery open for a short reception. He fired a pass that went through the hands of Jeffery and into the hands of Marcus Lattimore for his second pick of the day. The Eagles had one more shot to get the ball back with roughly 10 seconds left on the clock, but Alvin Kamara rumbled for 11 yards on 3rd-and-10 to ice the game for the Saints. With the win, New Orleans will welcome the Los Angeles Rams to the Superdome for the NFC Championship which will also be a rematch of Week 9 when the Saints came away with a 45-35 win in Los Angeles.
Saints 20, Eagles 14
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