One Win Away
Saints head to NFC Championship
Well that happened.
What a game. It’s a rare game that feels like your team is going to be blown out but then absolutely dominate for three quarters only to feel like, yes, the team is definitely going to lose but, then win the damn thing. It was completely crazy.
Saturday night I was in full blowout mode and telling friends the Saints would kill the Eagles but then I said, “Who are we kidding? It’s the Saints. It’s going to be dramatic.” Unfortunately for my nervous system those words were way too accurate as the New Orleans Saints beat the Philadelphia Eagles 20-14 in an out-and-out nail biter.
Earlier in the week, as you may have read, I was all in on a Saints blowout. I mean they destroyed this team seven weeks ago in the same building. How could they not, at least win easily over the same team? In retrospect, the answer was “because it’s the playoffs, dummy.”
The game couldn’t have started off worse. The very first offensive play was…well, quite offensive. Drew Brees launched a deep ball to a healthy Ted Ginn Jr., who had his guy beat by a step, but the ball was underthrown and, just like that, the Philadelphia Eagles had turned over the Saints.
It wouldn’t have been that big of deal except for Nick Foles slicing up the Saints defense and leading the Eagles to an immediate 7-0 lead. After that, it would get no better as Foles led the Eagles on the next drive to a 14-0 lead and everyone in New Orleans (at least the ones at the Rendezvous Tavern where I was watching the game) got really nervous, really quick.
Then the super secret play of the game happened. It wasn’t one of Michael Thomas’ clutch receptions or one of Marshon Lattimore’s interceptions, it was an awful play that felt like it would be indicative of the Saints’ afternoon.
Brees, in a crucial drive with the Saints trailing by two touchdowns, dropped back and had the ball knocked from his hand. A scramble ensued. Thankfully, luckily, Ryan Ramczyk (the draft pick everyone complained about) hustled back and recovered the fumble for a big loss and that play saved the Saints’ season.
On the next drive, the Saints would go on, after converting a fake punt for a first down, to put their first points on the board (converting on a fourth down pass play to Thomas) and the game was changed. It was never easy but the Saints’ defense, even while incurring a boatload of penalties, shut Philadelphia’s offense down the rest of the way. The Eagles run game never made a dent and after the first two drives the defense figured out the Nick Foles-led offense.
It was never a knockout punch delivered by the defense, on a day where they would record zero sacks but it was more of an old school sleeper hold, like the ones delivered by Rowdy Roddy Piper. The crowd was loud and the defense kept stopping the Eagles’ offense on third down and before you knew it the Saints were in the lead.
Even better was the Saints had the ball, up by six points and seemingly driving for a game-ending score. Unfortunately, there was more drama to be had and Wil Lutz, who has had a superb season, pushed the field goal attempt to the right and all of a sudden the Eagles, and their possible magic season was alive and well.
Then, with a quickness, Foles completed a 16 yard pass to Zach Ertz and the Eagles were on the Saints side of the field. The next play would see an iffy penalty of roughing the passer called against Marcus Davenport and the Eagles were sitting on New Orleans’ 27 yard line with just over two minutes left in the game. Yes, it was drama. Rendezvous Tavern, which had been a free-for-all the entire second half grew quiet, as an unwelcome outcome loomed large. Foles dropped back looking for more and delivered a perfect pass to Alshon Jeffery and Jeffery hauled the ball in for a touchdown and the Eagles won another Super Bowl. Just kidding but, as you know, the ball shot through Jeffery’s hands into Lattimore’s hands for his second pick of the day and the Saints held on for the 20-14 win. Rendezvous Tavern turned into bedlam and through some expert investigative reporting by yours truly, I can confirm that the Erin Rose bar was lit up about the victory for the rest of the night as well.
What a game. What a team. What a town.
Your New Orleans Saints host the L.A. Rams this Sunday at 2:20 p.m. in the Superdome. If you would like to give me free tickets please reach out and I will happily accept and buy you some beers.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: The Free Millers given to me at Rendezvous Tavern
Playlist Recommendation: Choppa – “Choppa Style” remix
Around the Way
Have you heard the rumor that the New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis is going to be traded to another team? Yeah, Davis skipping town rumors are about as prevalent as flying beads in February and a bit tiresome. Obviously you never want to see your superstar leave but at some point a player has to think about him or herself and get to an organization that knows how to make a run at championships.
For what it’s worth, the Pelicans are two games out of the playoffs (20-23) half way through season. Not out of it but not good either.