Opinions Ross Jackson

The Saints Advance to Host the Los Angeles Rams for the NFC Championship Game: Initial Reactions

Photo by: USA TODAY

After a more than shaky start to Sunday’s divisional action, the Saints pulled out a 20-14 win against the Philadelphia Eagles. They did so by completing their largest playoff comeback in franchise history. Meaning they’ll host the Los Angeles Rams next Sunday for their Super bowl bid. These two teams were the NFC favorites nearly all season long and it all comes down to a Week 9 rematch in the Dome.

The Saints started off playing poorly against Philly yielding a 14-0 lead to Philly in the first quarter. It was starting to look like that Nick Foles magic everyone talks about was going to continue its way through this game but after starting 7/8 for 113 yards on the first two drives, Foles then went 11-23 for 88 and two interceptions for the remaining three quarters. The Saints defense, which looked lost and out of whack at first, knocked the rust off early enough to turn the tide of the game an yet again shut out an opponent for the second half. In fact, they shut them out for the final 49:39 of the game.

After a big Michael Thomas catch and third down conversion the Saints ended up giving up the ball on a punt after almost fumbling it away. Just when it looked like this game could get absolutely out of hand, Marshon Lattimore came through with a tide-turning interception over Eagles TE Zach Ertz. After that came a fake punt of 4th and 1 converted by the game-changing Taysom Hill. That momentum changer was immediately followed by a 42 yard catch and run by Michael Thomas which eventually led to a Drew Brees TD pass to Keith Kirkwood on 4th and Goal.

The Saints defense then went on to force five straight punts. In the middle of all of that, the Saints offense went on an 18 play, 92 yard, 11:29 drive that just plain beat down the Philadelphia Eagles defense that was battling injuries all game. That long and arduous drive ended in a Michael Thomas score on 1st and Goal from the two-yard line.

After the Saints took the lead 20-14, Marshon Lattimore again came away with his second pick to finish the comeback he helped start and put the Saints offense in position to seal the game with 1:52 left on the clock and one timeout remaining for Philly. Why Philadelphia rushed to the line to try to get another play off before the two-minute warning is beyond me, but I’m damn glad they did it. The ball slipped right through Alshon Jeffrey’s hands and right into Lattimore’s giving the Saints the ball back allowing Alvin Kamara to run for a final first down to seal the game.

The Saints offense ran for 132 yards, making the Eagles 0-5 against teams not named the New York Giants that run for over 120 team yards against their defense. Michael Thomas had a monster game going for 12 catches, 171 yards, and a big-man Power Forward type touchdown. But one of the biggest win for the Saints was time of possession. In the final 45 minutes of the game, the Saints held the ball for 32:38 seconds giving the Eagles less than 12 and a half minutes of possession after the first quarter. They dominated and dictated the terms of the game.

The Saints now look to host the LA Rams in New Orleans next Sunday. It’ll be a rematch of the Saints 45-35 victory over the Rams in the regular season. But as we saw today, not all games are created equal, especially in the NFL. The Saint will have to work hard to limit Todd Gurley on the ground this time around as they’ll be without breakout DT Sheldon Rankins who tore his achilles against Philly. But the Saints defense certainly looks up to the task and the offense is producing again after waking up 15 minutes into the game. Keep an eye here at ASC for lots of recaps, analysis, and previews ahead of the Saints’s final test ahead of Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta.

Quick shoutout to Dennis Allen and the Super Dome crowd who were huge factors in the team’s win against the Eagles. Dennis Allen made the perfect adjustments throughout the game and at half time and the home crowd made Foles and the Eagles uncomfortable forcing two false starts, two timeouts, and several miscommunications.

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