The Saints scored 20 unanswered points to advance to the NFC Title game

The good, bad and ugly of the Saints Divisional Round playoff win over the Eagles

Michael C. Hebert, Saints website

The Saints are now 6-0 at home in the playoffs in the Sean Payton/Drew Brees era. They pulled out a 20-14 win over the Eagles to advance to the NFC Title game next week. Here's how I saw things:

The Good

- Marshon Lattimore made a very athletic play to go up over the top of Zach Ertz on a deep ball and come up with an interception. Down 14-0 early in the second quarter, this turnover saved the game from getting too out of hand too early. On the ensuing possession, they followed that up with a fake punt run for a first down by Taysom Hill (from their own 30), and a 4th & goal from the two yard line touchdown pass to keep the momentum from the turnover.

-Michael Thomas is unreal. Everybody and their momma know he's getting the ball, yet he STILL ends up with 12 catches for 171 yards and a touchdown. From the first quarter to the 13:21 mark of the fourth quarter, Thomas outgained the Eagles offense 110-100. At 6'3 and now weighing about 215-220lbs, he's so difficult to stop as he's also great route runner.

-The run game came to play and 31 carries for 137 yards brought the balance this offense needed. Alvin Kamara capped it all off with a 12 yard run for a first down with about a minute left in the game to seal the deal.

The Bad

-The Eagles struck first on a 37-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Matthews. P.J. Williams was in coverage on an RPO play and appeared to have given up. He was underneath Matthews and committed the cardinal sin of not running through with the receiver and losing sight of the ball.

-Eagles' quarterback Nick Foles completed 60% of his passes and wasn't sacked. The Saints barely got pressure on Foles. If this were to happen against the Rams next week, expect the Saints to lose.

-With about three minutes left in the game, Eagles' defensive end Michael Bennett made a huge tackle for loss on Alvin Kamara. It was a 3rd and 8 when Bennett dropped Kamara for a three yard loss. There seemed to be a missed block on the play when Brees appeared to change the call last second and immediately hiked the ball. The play forced the Saints to attempt a 52-yard field goal that Will Lutz missed, leaving the score 20-14 and the Eagles in prime position to take the lead.

The Ugly

- On the first play from scrimmage, Drew Brees threw an interception that set up the Eagles first touchdown. Not the way you want to start the first 14 seconds of the game. The terrible first quarter ended with them down 14-0 and outgained 153-17.

-Defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins was carted off with an ankle injury in the first quarter. It looked as if his injury wasn't as serious, and turned out to be a torn Achilles. Rankins was having a breakout year and will be missed versus the run and as an inside pass rusher. Eagles' offensive guard Brandon Brooks was also carted off in the first quarter as well.

-Alshon Jeffrey had a ball go through his hands and into Lattimore's for the game-sealing interception. I know this is a Saints article, but I felt bad for Jeffey. I've followed his career since he was a highly touted recruit committing to South Carolina. But this was a true game changer. Upper echelon receivers do not drop those easy passes in crunch time.

The road to the Super Bowl in the NFC goes through New Orleans. We are all privileged to see a rematch of the week nine game between the top two seeds in the NFC. That game ended 45-35 in favor of the Saints. With the way the two teams are playing defense, I expect it to be another great game with less scoring.

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Houston couldn't keep up

Astros fall to Blue Jays as Toronto gets homer-happy

Houston's bats couldn't keep up with Toronto's Saturday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With an offensive clinic in the opener on Friday night, which helped them handily defeat the Blue Jays, the Astros returned to Minute Maid Park Saturday with a chance to secure another series. Toronto had other plans, though, reversing roles with Houston by getting big home runs to even the series.

Final Score: Blue Jays 8, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 17-16, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Steven Matz (5-2)

Losing Pitcher: Cristian Javier (3-1)

Toronto flips the script and turns on their offense against Javier

Toronto flipped the script from the night before early in this middle game of the series, dealing damage to Cristian Javier, who so far in 2021 had been able to limit his amount of earned runs. After retiring the first four batters he faced, a one-out walk in the top of the second set up the Blue Jays' first hit of the night, a two-run home run by Cavan Biggio, giving them a 2-0 lead over Houston.

After a leadoff home run made it a 3-0 score, Javier would deal with the fallout of more walks in the top of the third, issuing two to set up a two-out two-RBI double to give the Jays a commanding 5-0 advantage. Javier would battle back and complete five full innings, getting one out into the sixth before a walk would prompt Dusty Baker to make the call to the bullpen. His final line: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 8 K, 2 HR, 91 P.

Alvarez keeps mashing as Houston tries to claw back into it

Javier would exit with at least some runs on the board in support of him, with Yordan Alvarez hitting a two-run opposite-field homer in the bottom of the fourth to cut the lead to three runs. Alvarez accounted for another run in the next inning, coming through with an RBI-single to make it 5-3, which is where the game stood as Andre Scrubb would take over in the top of the sixth.

Scrubb finished that inning for Javier and returned for a 1-2-3 seventh to keep it a two-run game. Bryan Abreu was the next reliever, and he, too, was able to retire the Blue Jays in order in the top of the eighth. The Astros continued to chip away at Toronto's lead, getting another run in the bottom of the inning on an RBI by Yuli Gurriel to make it 5-4 heading to the ninth.

Toronto evens the series

Brooks Raley entered to try and keep it a one-run game with a clean inning, but instead, two runners would reach on a walk and error before Joe Smith would enter to try and strand them. Instead, a two-out home run put the game back out of reach at 8-4, with Houston coming up empty in the bottom of the inning, setting up a rubber match in the finale.

Up Next: This series's third and final game will be an afternoon start of 1:10 PM Central on Sunday. Zack Greinke (2-1, 3.76 ERA) will try to add more wins to his record for Houston, while Nate Pearson will be making his 2021 debut for Toronto.

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