After a couple of weeks off, the Carolina game (Ergh) and then a welcome bye, A View from the UK is back for a defensive recap of the divisional round game between the Saints and the Eagles in New Orleans *Everyone Cheers*
I’m choosing to go defensive for this one because of the adjustments made by the Saints, especially Dennis Allen, after an awful first quarter and the following shutout in the remaining three quarters.
This game couldn’t have started any worse for the Saints, everything that could have went wrong, did. A pick off of Drew Brees on the first play of the game, followed by an Eagles TD a three and out, another Eagles TD and an injury to Sheldon Rankins had the Saints really hurting.
Then the change happened, that shift in momentum, the 1st interception and I stress First at this point. So let’s have a look at some individual players.
I think it’s an easy one to start with, Marshon Lattimore. Two interceptions to Lattimore in this one, matching his number for the whole season up to that point. He grabbed the first one up high, competing with Ertz for the air ball but getting the hands up higher and completing the takeaway for the Saints. His coverage was tight, this wasn’t the case from the start of the game where the Saints were playing off-man coverage but once they switched to press-man coverage he was there all the time, hence the pick. Lattimore’s coverage was extremely good so Foles and the Eagles were reluctant to throw his way, they targeted him again, just before the 2 minute warning. Snap, throw, Lattimore behind his man, through the hands of Alshon Jeffery and straight into the waiting hands of Marshon Lattimore, ball game. Lattimore showed up for the big plays, right place at the right time, doing the work required. After a great rookie season last year he was expected to do big things, he did in this one, playoff Marshon is here.
Due to that switch in coverage the Eagles looked elsewhere, the other starting corner, Eli Apple. Now I wrote a piece about Apple a few weeks back (humble plug) and he’s been good but not at the same levels since, that changed here. Again, slow start from all the defensive side of the ball but he also covered so well later in the game. He made plays, covered tight and broke up passes as and when necessary. He was the first read, locked up, looked to Lattimore, locked up, go back to Apple, no gain. Not to say there wasn’t gains at all by the Eagles because there were but not those huge chunks as in the first quarter and not in Saints territory where it can hurt you. Foles was made to hold the ball longer by the excellent coverage by both corners. Good work Eli.
Apart from the switch to press-man coverage, the other change was getting pressure towards Foles. Not on him (0 sacks on the game) but the pressure towards him, the threat of pressure, the threat of the QB hit, coverage making him hold the ball longer, giving a 2nd, 3rd read. Part of that pressure was the D-line. Cam Jordan, David Onyemata, Marcus Davenport and Tyler Davison played hard against a very good and very well drilled offensive line of the Eagles. They would be disappointed with not getting to Foles but that pressure told and they got in his eye-line forcing wayward throws. Jordan also got a tip on the ball, against the Rams they will hope to hit Goff a few times, especially early and set the tone for the game. It was good to see Taylor Stallworth with some snaps too doing well in the absence of Rankins, he will need to fill his boots again on Sunday.
Weekly Demario Davis appreciation piece. The man can fly, stopping the run, getting to the receiver after the pass, stopping forward progress. I would say he has been the best addition to the Saints defense this season. Rated only behind Lattimore on defense in this one (according to PFF) Davis got 8 total tackles with 3 assists which was team leading, keep ballin’ Demario.
So there you go, adjustments made by the coaching staff, players stepping up when needed and a three quarter shutout led the saints to victory with this 45 minute defensive masterclass. This defense only allowed 97 yards over those 3 quarters, Foles completed 10 of 22 for 88 yards and 2 picks after the disastrous first quarter. If they can play like that again against the Rams, without the dreadful start, then it should be more than enough for victory.
The Rams game won’t be the same type of game, they are a much stronger offense than the Eagles with now 2 potent running backs (CJ Anderson & Todd Gurley) to go with the air game but if everyone does their jobs, let’s their quality shine through and gets to the Quarterback then the Saints can win this match-up and head to the Superbowl in Atlanta. We live in hope.
Time to focus, grind, get ready and get that dome rocking for Sunday’s NFC Championship showdown. I will hopefully be writing a similarly positive next week. Until then….