The New Orleans Saints took the best that the Pittsburgh Steelers had to offer, and responded how true champions do, winning a 31-28 fight to the finish. The victory clinched the NFC's number one seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs, and once again showed that New Orleans has the talent and resilience to win any football game regardless of the circumstances. The game was a seesaw affair from start to finish. The Saints defense, who had played outstanding football in recent weeks, was on their heels throughout thanks to a productive Steelers passing attack. The defense made big plays at crucial moments though, not allowing a 4th quarter point for the fourth game in a row, while coming up with a couple of key sacks and two huge 4th quarter turnovers that sealed the win. The offense rebounded from a three week slump in their passing game to torch a Pittsburgh secondary that had no answers for them. Here are some of the best performers from this heartstopping New Orleans victory.
Brees riddled the Steelers zone from every angle, peppering them for 27 completions in 37 attempts for 326 yards and the game winning touchdown. The 39-yr. old veteran showed his underrated athleticism all game by sliding away from Pittsburgh's pass rush, and even turning into a skilled defender on one occasion. On the first drive of the second half, a Brees pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and was headed into the waiting arms of a Steelers defender. Brees sliced through the bodies and leapt in the air, tipping away the ball to prevent an interception and keep the eventual touchdown drive alive. Brees was at his best during the game's most important moments, going 3-3 on a 50 yard field goal drive with just 40 seconds left in the first half. He then jogged onto the field with 4:06 remaining in the game, his team trailing by four, and led them on a 46-yd. march ending with the game winning score. Along the way he hit Ted Ginn Jr. for a precise 25 yard strike on a 3rd and 20, then two more deadly accurate throws to finish the march. Brees notched his 162nd career victory, tying John Elway for the fourth highest on the NFL's all-time list.
Kamara finished the day with 105 yards from scrimmage, including 82 on four receptions, and two rushing touchdowns. His brilliant 31 yard catch and run set the Saints up for a last second field goal to end the first half, and broke away for a 42 yard reception on the first possession of the second half to set up his 1-yd. touchdown plunge to culminate the drive. Running room was tough to find against a fired up Pittsburgh defense that limited Kamara and Ingram to just 58 yards on the ground. Kamara's spinning 8-yd second quarter score showed his underrated toughness as a runner between the tackles.
Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster would have slightly better statistics than Thomas would on the day, but the Saints star was every bit as stunningly good. Thomas finished the game with 11 receptions for 109 yards, along with the game winning touchdown. He was unstoppable through the Pittsburgh zone coverages, and beat any attempts at man coverage on him with crisp routes. Thomas now has a team record 120 receptions on the year, and sits just 24 yards away from surpassing Joe Horn for the franchise record in receiving yards for a single season.
Demario Davis and Sheldon Rankins
Rankins and Davis, along with Kamara, were baffling snubs for the NFC Pro Bowl team announced earlier in the week. All three players showed in this game, like they had all season, that the snubs were a horrible oversight. Davis had one of the Saints three sacks on the night when he blitzed ferociously through the Steelers line to sack quarterback Ben Roethlisberger late in the 4th quarter to set up a 3rd and long. The play would set up a failed fake punt by Pittsburgh on 4th down, which set up the Saints for their go-ahead scoring drive. As he has all season, Davis flew around the field creating havoc and was constantly around the ball. His hustle and athleticism paid off, when he was in perfect position to recover a Smith-Schuster fumble in the final seconds as Pittsburgh was driving for a potential tying field goal.
Davis' fumble recovery was a play forced by Rankins, a defensive tackle who had dropped into coverage and made the tackle and strip of Smith-Schuster. Rankins also once again produced good interior push most of the game, often forcing Roethlisberger out of the pocket and helping to eliminate the Steelers inside running game.
The New Orleans Saints are now in a position where they are able to rest some of their starters if they wish during next week's finale against Carolina. Tackle Terron Armstead was reinjured during the game, something that could be a major concern, but the rest of the Saints roster is relatively, are fairly healthy as they approach the postseason. No matter how they approach this final regular season game, New Orleans looks poised to make a strong run at their second Super Bowl title in franchise history. The tall task now becomes even more daunting due to the fact that this team will not going to have to play another game on the road until a potential Super Bowl berth. This victory was made possible because of another outstanding team effort on borh sides of the ball, something they have done for the majority of the season. They will now get to continue their chase for a secinf title from the friendly confines of the Mercedes Benz Superdome
Who had the biggest showing for the Saints in their huge win over the Steelers?
This poll is closed