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.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

A WEEKLY REVIEW OF O'BRIEN'S COACHING

Not my job: Texans outmatched when it counts against Steelers

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Another game, another loss for the Texans. This time it was only a seven point loss to the Steelers as they fell 28-21 in Pittsburgh. This time around, Bill O'Brien looked to be on his game as far as decision-making was concerned. However, there is still room for improvement.

One thing that I did appreciate that O'Brien did was have trust in the offensive line. The Steelers pass rush could be problematic, but their defense overall is very stout. That's how they were able to nearly make the playoffs last year with a Duck at quarterback. While the Texans did give up five sacks, they weren't all due to poor offensive line play. The Texans lost 33 yards on those five sacks. Tytus Howard and Zach Fulton handled themselves fairly well after looking like turnstiles the first two games. O'Brien called longer developing pass plays and play action in spite of this and it paid off with Deshaun Watson and his receivers putting up 264 yards in the air.

There also wasn't an instance of Bumbling Bill this game. At the end of the first half, there was a minute and fourteen seconds left. The Texans were down 17-14 and had all three timeouts with the ball on their 25-yard line. Classic Bumbling Bill situation right? Wrong! Not only was the play-calling on point, but the players executed and the timeout situation was handled perfectly. First timeout was used after getting to midfield with 47 seconds left. Timeout number two was used after a 20 yard gain after the previous play. A 15 yard gain later to the Steeler 14-yard line and timeout number three was used with 28 seconds left. This set up perfectly for them to call a multitude of plays. They only needed one as Watson found Will Fuller in the end zone on a jump ball in which Fuller rose up and was physical enough to grab the ball over the defender. They went up 21-17 at the half.

Bill O'Brien's teams were 37-3 when leading at halftime. I say "were" because they lost this one after not scoring a single point in the second half. This was more on the defense not being able to fight its way out of a wet paper bag, and a lack of execution by the offense. Specifically, the run defense has been atrocious and Watson either needs quicker reads or to stop holding onto the ball so long by making quicker decisions. That's on coaching to put players in positions to succeed, but also the players to execute.

Ultimately, this was on O'Brien the general manager more than O'Brien the coach. This roster is woefully outmatched. The only time an outmatched roster can compete consistently is in college football with a wacky offense. It just doesn't happen in the NFL. Hey, at least Bumbling Bill didn't rear his butt chin today. Today's Culture Map play call menu was brought to you by Pour Behavior. I suggest getting over there and checking out their daily specials.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome