In their first playoff game since a heartbreaking loss in the divisional round last year in Minnesota, the New Orleans Saints were eager to start erasing the bad taste that the “Minneapolis Miracle” had left in their mouth. Facing them were the defending Super Bowl Champions Philadelphia Eagles, armed with enough momentum to fill a tank.
Trailing 14-0 in the blink of an eye, the Saints would not allow another point the rest of the game, as they defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 20-14 to stamp their ticket to the NFC Championship game. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore was instrumental with two interceptions. The second one, for all intents and purposes, sealed the game.
New Orleans will now face the Los Angeles Rams in the friendly confines of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, yet another rematch. You can bet that the team will be ready for that one.
One damper on the victory, defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins tore his Achilles tendon in the first half and is likely done for the season.
But tonight, no doubt the team and the city of New Orleans will celebrate the Saints going to their third NFC Championship Game, just one victory away from playing in Super Bowl LIII next month in Atlanta.
Here is how it all unfolded today:
Eagles win the toss and defer. Alvin Kamara returns the kickoff to the Saints’ 35-yard line and Drew Brees is intercepted on the first pass of the game by Cre’von Leblanc.
Eagles take over at their 24-yard line and get into Saints territory with a methodical drive. Nick Foles finds Jordan Matthews for a 37-yard touchdown pass to give the Eagles a 7-0 lead after the extra point.
Saints take over at their 25-yard line after a touchback butgo three-and-out and have to punt. A nightmarish start of the game for New Orleans.
From their 25-yard line, the Eagles drive into Saints’ territory in three plays. Defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins gets carted off with an injury during the drive. On 3rd-and-7, the Eagles convert from the Saints 34-yard line to get into the red zone. Nick Foles sneaks into the end zone for a touchdown to give the Eagles a 14-0 lead with 4:37 left in the first quarter.
Saints return the kickoff and have a personal foul penalty that pushes them to their own 8-yard line. Saints look sloppy as Brees drops a snap and then incurs a delay of game. On 3rd-and-10, Brees finds Michael Thomas for a 19-yard gain to get the offense started. Brees gets hit and fumbles, the Saints recover the ball but have to punt.
Eagles take over from their 30-yard line and gain two yards on a running play as the quarter ends.
Eagles convert a 2nd-and-8 on the second play of the drive. On the next play, Marshon Lattimore intercepts Nick Foles to give the Saints the ball back at New Orleans’ 21-yard line.
Saints go three-and-out and have to punt the ball back once again, but instead they fake it with Taysom Hill and gain the first down. On the next play, Brees finds Michael Thomas for 42 yards to the Eagles’ 24-yard line. Saints get into the red zone on runs by Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. Saints stall on 3rd down at the Eagles’ two yard line. Brees finds Keith Kirkwood for a touchdown to bring the Saints within 14-7 after the PAT.
Eagles take over at their 25-yard line and go three-and-out for the first time of the game. Saints return the punt to their 20-yard line.
On the first play, Alvin Kamara runs for 13 yards, but Brees gets sacked on fourth play of the drive and Saints have to punt at the two-minute warning.
Eagles fair-catch the punt at their own 23-yard line. Cam Jordan tips a Foles pass on 3rd-and-9 and punt. A penalty pins the Saints at their 6-yard line.
Saints get into Eagles territory on the arms of Drew Brees, including a 23-yard pass to Alvin Kamara. Saints get to the Eagles’ 27-yard line and Wil Lutz converts a 45-yard field goal to bring the Saints within four points at 14-10.
By virtue of deferring in the first half, the Eagles take the ball and start at their 25-yard line. Eagles go three-and-out on a great pass breakup by safety Vonn Bell.
Saints start at their 9-yard line. Aided by an Eagles’ holding penalty, Saints get out of the shadow of their end zone. Saints get into Eagles territory, but a holding penalty on Andrus Peat negates a touchdown throw from Taysom Hill to Alvin Kamara. Saints keep their drive alive with Brees finding Michael Thomas for a first down on 2nd-and-20. Saints keep shooting themselves in the foot with penalties. but it’s the Michael Thomas drive, as the wide receiver helps the Saints into the red zone.
Alvin Kamara takes the Saints to Philadelphia’s 2-yard line and on first-and-goal, Brees finds Michael Thomas for a touchdown to cap an 18-play, 11:29 minutes drive. The Saints lead 17-14. Thomas is having an epic game!
Eagles take over at their 25-yard line with 1:40 left in the quarter. Philadelphia finds a first down at its own 40-yard line as the quarter ends.
Eagles can not convert on 3rd-and-8 from their 42-yard line and have to punt the ball. Saints take over at their own 17-yard line.
Saints find a first down on 3rd-and-5 with Tre’Quan Smith, then Mark Ingram rushes for 36 yards to the Eagles’ 27-yard line.
On 3rd-and-7 from the Eagles’ 24-yard line, Saints stall and Wil Lutz makes a 39-yard field goal. Saints lead 20-14 with 10:28 left in the game.
Eagles start at their own 21-yard line after returning the kickoff. Philadelphia stalls on 3rd-and-5 but a pass interference penalty on P.J. Williams keeps their drive alive. On the next three sets of plays, Eagles stall again and have to punt.
Saints fair-catch the ball at their own 25-yard line. On the first play of the drive, Michael Thomas grabs a 9-yard reception, his 11th of the game for 149 yards, a Saints’ franchise playoff record. On 3rd-and-13 from the Saints’ 32-yard line, Michael Thomas catches a 22-yard pas into Eagles territory. From the Eagles’ 31-yard line on 3rd-and-8, Saints lose 3 yards and have to settle for a field goal. Wil Lutz misses a 52-yard field goal wide right.
Eagles take over at their own 42-yard line and get into Saints territory on a pass to tight end Zach Ertz. A roughing-the-passer penalty on Marcus Davenport further pushes the Eagles into Saints’ territory. On 2nd-and-10 from the Saints’ 27-yard line, Marshon Lattimore picks off a pass deflected off the hands of Alshon Jeffery. Saints’ ball with 1:52 left to play in the game.
Saints take over at their 33-yard line and run to bleed the clock. Alvin Kamara finds a first down to ice the game!
Saints are headed to the NFC Championship Game!!!!
What Saints player gets your game ball Who Dat Nation?
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Marshon Lattimore with his two picks. He is back!!!
Michael Thomas, with an incredible 171 receiving yards
Drew Brees, masterful after an INT on the first play of the game
Alvin Kamara: Just all-around playmaker
The Quadruple Bacon Cheeseburger that helped me through this