Your New Orleans Saints are going to be hosting the NFC Championship Game! To get there, their win over the Philadelphia Eagles was a bit of a roller coast with a few ups and downs along the way, so let’s go over a few that stood out.
Down: Sheldon Rankins
This one hurts, so let’s get it out of the way first.
#Saints DT Sheldon Rankins suffered what’s believed to be a torn Achilles’ tendon, source says. Rough one.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) January 13, 2019
Suffering what is thought to be a torn Achilles, the Saints are likely to be without Sheldon Rankins for the rest of their playoff run.
Rankins had a Pro Bowl-caliber year, and was arguably one of the best interior defensive linemen not named “Aaron Donald” in the NFL. On the year, Rankins had a whopping eight sacks and fifteen quarterback hits as a defensive tackle, including one forced fumble. It will be disappointing to not see the “Sheldon Shimmy” after a sack, but it’s more concerning what his absence will mean to the Saints solid run defense - especially against Todd Gurley and the incoming Los Angeles Rams.
Up: Sean Payton
Some like to call Sean Payton “overrated,” but he had a great game calling plays for the Saints offense last night.
Despite few holes opening up early in the game, Sean was patient with the run game and refused to abandon the run, even down 14 points early in the first quarter. Even though the play was called back due to a holding penalty (more on that in a bit), Sean dialed up a perfect play call with Taysom Hill hitting Alvin Kamara on a seam route for a touchdown. However, no two play calls were bigger than the fake punt on fourth down and the touchdown (again on fourth down) to give the Saints their first score:
TAYSOM HILL FAKE PUNT pic.twitter.com/FvcrHbxuEa— Def Pen Sports (@DefPenSports) January 13, 2019
Saints first touchdown was designed to look like a "shield slant" initially— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) January 13, 2019
Great design by Payton pic.twitter.com/JF0V6EZk1N
Down: Andrus Peat
To say Andrus Peat had a poor game would be an understatement.
That holding penalty that negated the Taysom Hill touchdown pass? Against Andrus Peat. Peat had multiple holding and false start penalties that constantly kept the Saints behind the chains. Fortunately for the Saints, the Saints offense behind Drew Brees and Michael Thomas (who deserves an honorary “up” himself) was able to make up those penalty yards on a consistent basis. That being said, if the Saints want to turn one playoff win into a deep playoff run, they will need to stop shooting themselves on the foot with silly penalties. And if Fletcher Cox and Michael Bennett were giving Peat problems yesterday, it’s not going to get any easier with Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, and Dante Fowler Jr.
Up: Marshon Lattimore
Michael Thomas breaking the Saints franchise single-game receiving record was definitely special, but no single player had as big of an impact as Marshon Lattimore. The reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year matched his season long interception total with two picks in the game, including the game-sealer late.
His first interception was a momentum-changer with the Eagles up 14 and driving.
GORGEOUS INTERCEPTION by Marshon Lattimore on Nick Foles ⚜️ pic.twitter.com/QBKzndewQQ— VERSACEBOYENT (@VersaceBoyEnt2) January 13, 2019
On the ensuing drive after the pick, the Saints were able to score their first touchdown (on the back of those two fourth down conversions). Lattimore also made multiple other plays, snuffing out wide receiver screens and generally providing solid coverage of Alshon Jeffery, but his last interception is basically was clinched the game for the Saints.
NEW ORLEANS BUCKEYES.— Eleven Warriors (@11W) January 14, 2019
Marshon Lattimore makes his second interception of the game to seal a win for the Saints.pic.twitter.com/FMWWzl0qqH
Against Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams, it will be great to see Lattimore build on this game in coverage of speedsters like Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods.
Bring on the Rams.