Saints Pull Off the Upset Thanks to a Dominant Defensive Performance Against the Eagles
The Saints came into week 17 with a legitimate shot at the playoffs but they need a lot of things to fall into place in order for that to happen. They could make the playoffs by winning the division but they need to Bucs to lose out. They could also make it as a wild card but they would need the Lions and Packers to lose at least once and they need to Commanders to lose out. None of that will matter if the Saints don't win out themselves. That wasn't going to be an easy task as they faced the current one-seeded Eagles in Philadelphia. They got a little stronger with Marshon Lattimore returning to the lineup for the first time since week 3. The Eagles came in not full strength without their franchise QB, Jalen Hurts, and without their best lineman in Lane Johnson. Now that the stage is set for a crucial week 17 matchup, let's see how it all went down.
The Saints started the game on offense and their first drive was a thing of beauty. The Saints went on a methodical 75-yard drive that lasted just under 9 minutes. Taysom Hill played a pivotal role on the drive as he converted a huge 4th and 2 and then punched it in from one yard out to give the Saints a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
The defense came out just as hot as they sacked Gardner Minshew on first down and set up a 3rd and 17. The Saints wouldn't allow the Eagles to pick up the first as they forced a three-and-out.
Dalton and the offense would go right back to work they convert a couple of key third downs to get the ball just past mid-field. The Saints were the model of third-down efficiency on third down before stalling out in Eagle territory. A sack on third-and-short would force the Saints to punt the ball away and pin the Eagles deep in their own territory. That's how the first quarter would come to an end with the Saints leading 7-0.
The Saints' defense went right back to work as they stuffed Minshew on third-and-short to force their second straight three-and-out of the first quarter. Dalton was able to move the offense well into Eagle territory but a crucial holding penalty would put the Saints behind the chance and bring up a fourth-and-five. Will Lutz come out onto the field for a 54-yard field goal try that would put the Saints up 10-0 with 8:30 remaining in the first half.
The defense continued to put on a dominant performance as they quickly forced their third straight three-and-out. After the punt, the saints would start their drive shy of mid-field and a prime opportunity to take a commanding lead in this game. On third down, Dalton continued his impressive third-down conversion rate with a huge strike to Rashid Shaeed. to get the Saints inside the Eagle's five-yard line. The Eagles stood tall on the goal line as they forced another field goal attempt from Will Lutz. The Kick was up and good to make it a 13-0 game
The Eagles couldn't get anything going and that continued as the dominant Saints defense forced a fourth straight three-and-out. The Saints tried to add to their lead before the break but Dalton forced a pass downfield that would be intercepted. The Eagles went back to work offense with less than a minute in the half as they picked up their first first down of the game. It wouldn't matter as the time would expire before the Eagles could score and the Saints went into the break with a 13-0 nothing lead.
The Eagles started the second half with the ball an easily had their best drive of the game as they quickly worked their deep into Saints territory. They had a nice mixture of run and pass as kept the Saints off balance. The Eagles would shoot themselves in the foot after a big holding call would erase a long touchdown run. The Saints would hold on third-and-14 to force a 54-yard field goal try. The kick was up and good to cut the lead to 13-3 with 10:58 remaining in the third quarter.
Dalton and the offense would look to answer on their first drive of the second half, but the Eagles forced a three-and-out of their own and would get the ball back deep in their own territory. The Eagles would pick up right where they left off on offense as they attacked the Saints with a heavy dose of Miles Sanders. Penalties would again set the Eagles back as they face a third-an-12 but a huge pass to Devontae Smith would make be enough to pick up the first. The drive would eventually stall another holding penalty would get them off track and the Saints would hold on third-and-long to force a punt.
The Saints’ offense began to look stagnant as a huge sack would set up a third-and-long and the Saints couldn’t convert. The Eagles would explode on offense on the following possession as Minshew would hit AJ Brown for a 78-yard touchdown pass to get Philly in the end zone for the first time today. That score would make it a 13-10 Saints lead with 45 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
The Saints tried to put together an answer on their next possession but were unsuccessful after Dalton was sacked on third down, forcing a punt. The Saints’ defense would keep the Eagle offense under control as they would force a punt on the ensuing possession. The Saint’s offense looked continued to struggle in the second half and the Eagles’ defense continued to smother Taysom. The Eagles were putting together a promising drive before facing a fourth-and-short just shy of mid-field. Minshew would attempt a QB sneak but the Saints would stuff the play taking over on downs in Eagle territory with just over 8 minutes remaining in the game.
The Saints couldn’t get anything going on the ensuing possession as they were forced to punt the ball back to the Eagles. The Saint’s defense would make their presence felt once again as Marshon Lattimore would step in front of a Minshew pass and take it back for a touchdown. That score would make it a 20-10 game with 5:47 left in the game.
The Eagles would move the ball just shy of mid-field on their next possession but mistakes would have them facing a fourth-and- 22. The Saints would hold once against and take over on downs at mid-field with 3:35 reaming in the game. The Saints turned to Taysom to drain the clock and he did just that as he forced his way deep into Eagle territory. The Saints were able to pick up enough first downs to allow time to expire.
The Saints improve to 7-9 on the season and temporarily keep their playoff hopes alive but its going to be a lot more difficult as the Bucs were able to defeat the Panthers to win the Division. Now, the Saints are going to need a number of teams to lose in order to make it as wild card. Here is what needs to happen for them to make it as a wild card.
The Saints will take on Carolina next in the Dome to close out the Season.