Eagles at Saints NFC Divisional Playoff observations and reaction

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It was beginning to happen again.

Michael Bennett powered through the line of scrimmage and took down Alvin Kamara for a three-yard loss, pushing Wil Lutz’s potential game-sealing field goal to 52 yards. He steered it to the right.

Nick Foles fired a 16-yard completion to Zach Ertz and the Philadelphia Eagles were suddenly inside the New Orleans Saints’ 30-yard line following a roughing the quarterback penalty. And just as it seemed like the Foles magic was about to strike again, the Eagles hurried to the line to try and get another play off before the two-minute warning.

Seconds later, the dream of a repeat was over.

Foles’ pass went through Alshon Jeffery’s hands and into the waiting arms of New Orleans cornerback Marshon Lattimore, clinching a 20-14 win over the Eagles in the NFC Divisional Playoffs from the raucous Superdome.

It was only Jeffery’s third drop of the season.

Jeffery said the loss is on him.

“”That’s on me. I’ll take that loss. It’s on me,” he said. “I let my teammates down, the city of Philadelphia, that’s on me. I’ll take that.

I didn’t catch the ball, they made the play.

That play won’t destroy me. It happens to the best of us. Guys miss game-winning shots (in basketball) and drop touchdowns all the time. You live and you learn.”

If Jeffery didn’t drop the pass, Doug Pederson thought the Eagles would’ve walked away with the win.

“I thought that we were on our way. We had that [roughing the passer penalty], it just felt like the momentum at that point, it was in our favor — kind of in our hands. It’s been that way all season, and felt like, sort of, that magic was going to continue.”

Pederson made sure to hug all of his players after the game before they headed into the locker room.

With Drew Brees on the other sideline, letting the clock run until the two-minute warning and attempting the drain as much of it thereafter while scoring a touchdown would’ve been my plan. It wasn’t Doug Pederson’s.

The Eagles couldn’t have scripted a better start. Cre’Von LeBlanc intercepted Drew Brees on the first play of the game and Philadelphia totaled 151 yards on its first two touchdown drives. It was 14-0 in a blink, but the Eagles’ offense mustered just 99 yards of offense the rest of the game.

So what happened to the offense?

The Saints began to generate more pressure with their front seven and it became tougher for Foles to operate. New Orleans is susceptible to giving up the deep ball, but the offensive line despite not giving up a sack didn’t protect Foles as well as they had been since he came back into the lineup. He finished 18-of-31 for 201 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

You need time for those routes to develop and the Eagles settled for a lot of throws underneath, which the Saints were making immediate tackles on. Losing right guard Brandon Brooks didn’t help either. The pressure also made Foles move around more than he’s accustomed to and his accuracy wavered because of it. He underthrew a couple deep balls, other passes were wide of his intended target and there were times where Foles just simply threw the ball up.

It was the playoff Foles that we weren’t accustomed to seeing.

Philly also had no running game, Wendell Smallwood led the way with 33 yards on 10 carries, so it didn’t put itself into favorable third-down situations. The Eagles went 2-of-7 on third down. New Orleans, meanwhile, had much better success on third down, going an impressive 8-of-15.

The momentum turn came at the 11:51 mark of the second when Sean Payton went for a fake punt, which Taysom Hill converted the 4th-and-1 with. That was also the point in time where injuries began to pile up. Fletcher Cox was on and off the field with a knee injury that was suffered on the fake punt. Michael Bennett, Rasul Douglas and Avonte Maddox also all left with injuries before returning.

And Payton went after cornerback Josh Hawkins on 4th-and-goal from the two to pull New Orleans within a touchdown. The Saints added a field goal before the half to get within 14-10 heading into the break.

After a brief three-and-out and wasted timeout to start the second half by the Birds, the Saints embarked on an 18-play, 92-yard TD drive to go in front for the first time. New Orleans overcame a pair of holding penalties on the lengthy excursion, converting a 3rd-and-3, 3rd-and-1 and 3rd-and-16 en route to capping the drive with Michael Thomas’ 2-yard TD catch.

Thomas caught 12 balls for 171 yards.

LeBlanc made a great open-field tackle on Alvin Kamara to prevent a first down and limit the Saints to a field goal early in the fourth quarter to keep it a one-possession game.

Whether or not this was Foles’ last game as an Eagle, he made sure to leave the fans one last message.

Foles was also the first one to console Jeffery after the drop, what a class act.

What happens from here is anybody’s guess, but it’ll be an action-packed off-season in Philly.


You can follow Adrian Fedkiw on Twitter (@AdrianFedkiw) and e-mail him at adrian@phillyinfluencer.com. Subscribe to The Bitter Birds on YouTube here.

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