A game-opening firestorm ignited by the Philadelphia Eagles was calmly extinguished over time by the better team, allowing the host New Orleans Saints to come away with a 20-14 playoff victory at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday night.
It was a thriller from start to finish, however, with the Eagles appearing to be marching toward a game-tying touchdown and go-ahead extra point — only to see a Nick Foles pass go right through the hands of receiver Alshon Jeffery and into the hands of Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore with just under 2 minutes remaining to seal it.
Here’s what jumped out:
What happened in the first 10 minutes of this contest served to quiet a jacked-up crowd that was feeling pretty darn good about the Saints’ prospects of hosting the NFC Championship Game.
Quarterback Drew Brees went deep on the first play from scrimmage and was intercepted by Cre’Von LeBlanc.
He finished this game with game-highs of five catches and 63 yards and proved time and again as this season wore on why he deserved the money the Eagles threw at him in a contract extension.
Also, nobody took that drop harder. The picture of Jeffery lying face down on the ground, knowing his drop cost them any chance they had of pulling the upset will be burned in every fan’s mind for weeks and months to come.
War of attrition
First, it was Pro Bowl guard Brandon Brooks, who started limping to the sideline before collapsing with a leg injury and being carted off. Same for CB Rasul Douglas a little later.
Finally, Pro Bowl DT Fletcher Cox limped off for a couple of series before eventually returning.
And the Saints took advantage. They scored a second-quarter touchdown on a fourth-and-goal play from the 2-yard line when Drew Brees picked on Josh Hawkins, who was in for Douglas, who was playing only because starters Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby are on the injured reserve list.
With Cox out of the game, the run-stopping ability the Eagles showed with him in there disappeared.
After the game Brooks tweeted he suffered a torn Achilles.
At least Douglas and Cox were able to return.
Wanted to take a minute to thank everyone for the well wishes. Yeah it sucks I tore my Achilles but you know what I look forward to attacking rehab like it’s a game. I look forward to this long journey. God got me and this did nothing but light a fire I needed
He might not be their long-term answer, but one thing third-year RB Wendell Smallwood has proven to the Eagles in his third season is that he can be counted on in big moments.
Smallwood always runs hard, and it was no surprise after watching him over the last few weeks that he was the only Eagles running back who carried the ball in the first half, which ended with the Eagles leading 14-10.