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.

Something has to be done to change the rapid decline in officiating

Bad calls ruining good games

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Referees, umpires, and officials have always been highly scrutinized and we all know that officiating games is a thankless job, but we have finally reached a breaking point where bad calls are starting to ruin sports. You know something needs to change when both the NFC and AFC Championship games need overtime to decide which teams would go to the Super Bowl and yet the takeaway will be controversial calls in both games instead of history-making plays. In a world where technology continues to get better and better and replay has become a part of all 3 major leagues, somehow, some way, the level of officiating has seemingly dropped to an all-time low. From replay not being allowed during certain portions of the game or on plays occurring outside of the final minutes of a half, to human error that cannot be challenged or corrected, the frustration level for fans has gone through the roof. I realize that a major concern for the governing bodies of professional sports is the time a game takes to play and how that has an adverse effect on broadcast partners, national networks and impatient fans. With all that said, the ultimate goal for every league and every game is to get the calls right no matter what it takes so that the players ultimately decide the outcome of the contests. If the people on the competition committee of all these professional sports don't put their heads together and come up with better ways of assuring that calls are correct and replay reviews are used, we could be heading towards a very dark time as fans.

If you watched both NFL games yesterday, or even one of the two contests, you couldn't help but walk away shaking your head at several bad calls and no calls that helped to decide the outcomes. What's worse than that, on multiple occasions rulings that were made were sketchy at best and no calls that were obviously wrong were not corrected. From pass interference that wasn't called to face mask penalties and catch/no catch plays, fans were left scratching their heads and wondering if the right team really won the game? What makes things worse is that the NFL doesn't have any policy in place that requires them to provide explanations as to why certain calls and decisions were made and the basis behind them. Broadcasters and fans are left to guess and assume why a certain outcome was inforced instead of being informed of rules and shown the conclusive video to reinforce specific calls. There were also multiple calls made on the field that replay proved to be incorrect, with no way of correcting them or challenging them to assure that the right ruling was made. Something has to change!

In the NBA calls seem to be getting worse on a nightly basis and the replay system is still too limited to correct a large number of incorrect calls on the floor during important times in a game. Even with the league expanding replay and implementing a reporting system that comes out within 24 hours of the completion of a contest explaining key calls and admitting inaccurate decisions, there are still far too many bad calls deciding and affecting outcomes. The kicker here is that, while being as transparent as possible in admitting errors, there is no system in place to go back and replay games from the point at which bad calls are made, so all the report does is exploit how bad the refereeing has gotten in one of the top sports leagues in the world. Sure it's nice for a player, coach, team and fan base to get the peace of mind in knowing that the wrong call was made and inevitably cost your team points or worse yet a game, but it doesn't change the outcome or the standings and they don't get a "do over." So unless the goal is to throw salt in a wound or to look as bad as possible as a league, there really is no reason to have the Final Two Minutes Report issued on a daily basis. The league also has made it mandatory that the crew chief of the officials that were on a game where a controversial call occurred, be made available to answer questions from the media immediately following the completion of the game in question. This is done to provide clarity, answers, and explanations as to the thought process and rules involved in their on court decisions. The bad thing again is, it won't change the outcome of the game so all it does is publicize and draw attention to incorrect calls. On top of that, in many of these incidents and interviews, the crew chief is not the referee who made the call in question so you are left with more suspicion than validation. There has to be a better way!


The biggest issues in Major League Baseball are being as consistent as possible calling balls and strikes, as well as replay review and getting calls right on the field. Last year in the regular season and the playoffs, replay review was used on multiple calls and the wrong call was still the final outcome on the field. There was also a season-long debate about what can be done to have a more consistent and accurate strike zone on a nightly basis? Umpires are against an electronic strike zone and feel it will eventually lead to the elimination of their jobs. gain, if the ultimate goal is to make sure they get the call right, why not utilize technology to make that happen more consistently? We already have K-Zone technology on almost every local and national TV telecast so viewers can see how good or bad an umpire is doing calling a game, why not use similar resources to guarantee the players and coaches that the right calls are being made as well? The commissioner is deeply concerned about game length and the time it takes to play an MLB game but most fans know what they are getting into when they buy a ticket or turn on a game broadcast. A few more minutes added on to the length of time it takes to play a game, to make sure the integrity of the game is no longer in question seems like a small price to pay in the big picture and grand scheme of things.

I don't have all the answers in terms of how to utilize replay and technology more to make sure the right right calls are made and bad calls are corrected, but I do know something has to be done soon. There are lots of league officials smarter than me with a much higher pay grade, that are on competition committees for their given sport and charged with upgrading rules and implementing technology. These are the folks that have to put their heads together and figure it out before it's too late. You'd rather have games take a little longer but the right calls and decisions made, than the alternative of having huge games tainted and remembered for flags that weren't thrown and whistles that should have been blown.

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