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

Yordan Alvarez provided the offense to back up more stellar pitching by the Astros as they took ALCS game 6 to advance to the 2021 World Series. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games of this series in Houston then falling behind in the series 2-1 by dropping the first of three games in Boston, the Astros took over the ALCS in Games 4 and 5, sending them back to their home crowd with a chance to finish things off in Game 6 at Minute Maid Park. After another stellar performance by their pitching staff and more timely hitting, they would accomplish that mission, winning the series and moving on to the 2021 World Series.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 0

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston wins 4-2

Winning Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Losing Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Houston strikes first to start tightly-contested Game 6

After a scoreless top of the first inning by Boston's offense, the Astros capitalized on a chance to be first to score in the bottom of the frame. Alex Bregman started the two-out rally, reaching base on a single against Nathan Eovaldi for the first hit of the night. Yordan Alvarez followed, delivering his sixth RBI of the series with a double to put Houston on top 1-0.

That did not spark further immediate scoring, as the one-run score held while both starting pitchers provided solid outings for their team. For Eovaldi, he was able to limit Houston to just that single run through four frames. He returned in the bottom of the fifth, facing two batters, allowing a single, and getting a strikeout to end his night.

Garcia impresses in big start

For the home team, they were recipients of another expectation-exceeding performance from one of their young arms. Only anticipated to go a handful of innings, Luis Garcia worked efficiently and effectively against Boston, keeping them scoreless and hitless through five innings. He continued in the sixth, getting two more outs before allowing a two-out triple, ending his night as Phil Maton would enter to strand the tying run. Garcia's final line: 5.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 76 P.

With both teams dipping into their bullpens, the Astros took advantage of Boston's as Yordan Alvarez's dominance went on display once again. He led the inning off with a triple, then scored on a double-play ball to extend Houston's lead to 2-0. Kendall Graveman took over on the mound in the top of the seventh and worked himself into a big moment. He gave up a one-out walk, followed by a single, which put runners on the corners for Boston. He continued to struggle with the zone, falling behind the next batter 3-1, but was able to battle back to get the strikeout paired with a terrific throw by Martin Maldonado to cut down the runner from first trying to steal second, ending the inning and maintaining the two-run advantage.

Astros headed to the World Series

Ryne Stake was Houston's next reliever, and he put Houston three outs away by getting a 1-2-3 eighth. With Ryan Pressly warming, he watched and hoped that his offense could give him some more insurance to work with when he went to the mound in the top of the ninth. His wish would be granted, as after getting two on base, Kyle Tucker would put a major exclamation point on the night's offense, hitting a three-run opposite-field homer to the Crawford Boxes to push the lead to 5-0.

Pressly, now with the five-run lead, came on to try and start the celebration by getting the final three outs. Against the tougher part of Boston's order, he would get a 1-2-3 inning, giving the Astros the American League pennant, which along with those won in 2017 and 2019, puts them back in the World Series for the third time in five years.

Up Next: The Astros will have three days off before The Fall Classic kicks off. While Game 1 will be on Tuesday, October 26th, nothing else has yet been determined as Houston awaits to see which of the Dodgers and Braves will advance out of the NL, which will also dictate if the Astros will host or travel to World Series Game 1.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome