The magic of Nick Foles simply ran out Sunday night as the Eagles fell to the Saints in the Mercedes Benz-Superdome 20-14. The Eagles jumped out to an early 14-0 first quarter lead, but the Saints punched in 20 unanswered points to emerge victorious. The Saints will now host the Rams next week where the winner will advance to the Super Bowl to take on the winner of the Chiefs and Patriots game in Kansas City. The Eagles started off hot, but slowly cooled down and were simply outplayed down the stretch.
Drew Brees opened the game with a first play interception to Cre’von LeBlanc. That interception helped galvanize the Eagles offense and Nick Foles marched down the field and found Jordan Matthews for a 37-yard touchdown strike. After forcing the Saints to punt, the Eagles again moved down the field and Foles punched in a quarterback sneak to make the score 14-0. Despite their early success on offense, the Eagles would find difficulty moving the ball the rest of the game. The Eagles would punt the ball five times during the rest of the game and throw two interceptions and weren’t able to notch any more points the rest of the contest.
Following the Foles interception, Brees slowly and methodically moved the ball down the field and found Keith Kirkwood in the endzone to make the score 14-7 Eagles. The spark of the game for the Saints occurred when Taysom Hill advanced the ball on a fake punt to give the Saints a new set of downs and energy on that drive. The Eagles and Saints would trade punts for the rest of the half until the Saints knocked a field goal through to make the game 14-10 at half following an Eagles kneel down.
The Eagles did not come out of halftime hot and after a 3 and out, in which they had to burn a timeout, they punted the ball back to the Saints. The Saints used almost all of the 3rd quarter on their almost 12-minute drive that netted them another touchdown to take their first lead of the game 17-14. The Eagles were even gifted as earlier in the drive a Hill touchdown pass was negated due to holding, but the Saints inevitably punched it in. The Saints would add another field goal on their next drive to increase their lead to six.
Following a Saints missed field goal in the 4th quarter, the Eagles had just 2:58 to keep their season alive. The Eagles got the ball down to the Saints 27-yard line following a 16-yard pass to Zach Ertz and a roughing the passer call and the Eagles were marching towards the endzone. Unfortunately, on second down, Foles’ pass went right through Alshon Jeffery’s hands and was intercepted by Marshon Lattimore, his second interception on the day, and it was nothing but heartbreak for the underdog Eagles. Alvin Kamara would break through on third down for just enough to give the Saints a new set of downs and end the Eagles season following a Brees kneel down.
The Eagles simply fell short but had a tremendous run up to that point. Foles finished what may be his last game in an Eagles uniform 18/31 for 201 yards passing, a touchdown, and two interceptions. Leading rusher Wendell Smallwood couldn’t seem to make a major impact rushing the ball 10 times for 33 yards. Jeffery was the Eagles leading receiver with 5 catches for 63 yards, with Ertz not far behind hauling in 5 catches for 50 yards. Matthews reeled in just one catch, but it was the Eagles lone passing touchdown.
Brees was critical down the stretch and proved why he is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. He finished with 301 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, and an interception on 28/38 passing. Kamara rushed 16 times for 71 yards and Mark Ingram rushed 9 times for 53 yards. Michael Thomas was an absolute stud for the Saints and finished with 171 yards and a touchdown on 12 catches. The next closest receiver was Ted Ginn Jr. with 3 catches for 44 yards.
Statistically, the Saints dominated the Eagles. They finished with 170 more yards of offense (82 more passing and 88 more rushing). The Saints also had 10 more first downs and ran 24 more plays than the Eagles. They held the ball almost 16 minutes longer than the Eagles and were even more penalized than the Eagles by over 50 yards. The Saints avoided their rocky start and dominated after the 1st quarter.
The Saints proved it doesn’t matter how you start, it’s how you finish. After moving past the Eagles, they will host the Rams and with a victory there, they would advance to the Super Bowl. The Eagles now have a multitude of offseason moves to consider and weigh heavily, especially around their future with Foles. Overall, it was a strong ending to a seemingly bleak season for the Eagles, but it just wasn’t good enough to get past the #1 Saints.