Little’s OT goal gives Jets the win over the Ducks
NEW ORLEANS — What can now be remembered as a victory dance was performed late in the lopsided third quarter by two New Orleans Saints big men — defensive end Cameron Jordan and linebacker Demario Davis.
They had just witnessed something very special when, standing on the sidelines, Choppa Style blared over the sound system at Mercedesbenz Superdome.
They could not contain their excitement.
As the Jumbotron focused on first Jordan, then Davis shakin’ and gyratin’, 73,027 fans went absolutely bonkers.
“Oh man, there’s nothing like the Dome, man,” Davis explained to the lone Canadian reporter later. “We’ve got the most electric crowd in the NFL. Choppa Style, that’s our theme song right now. When that comes on, the crowd, they feed off it, so we feed off of it. It’s kind of like we’re doing our thing in that moment. We’re in our element.”
Doing his thing to set off the party was Drew Brees, the future Hall of Fame quarterback who turns 40 on Tuesday.
After a start in which just about everything that could go wrong did, the Saints scratched and clawed their way back into the NFC divisional round playoff against the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles.
And when Brees was given the ball in the third quarter, he didn’t give it back until the Saints finally had the lead, after he combined with Michael Thomas on a twoyard scoring toss.
“I think the turning point was really that 23-play drive that lasted 111/2 minutes. That kind of took us from our own eight-yard line to get a touchdown,” said Brees, before chuckling. “I was just told that we actually gained 117 yards on that drive ... I wonder if that’s a record ... because of the penalties that kept setting us back. But yeah, we went on a 117-yard drive in the third quarter to take the lead and then didn’t really look back.”
The end result, a 20-14 victory, ends a 4-0 playoff run by Eagles quarterback Nick Foles and coach Doug Pederson that included last year’s Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots.
It also crushed the Eagles’ attempt to be the first team to successfully defend its crown since the 2004 Patriots.
The Saints will now host the Los Angles Rams in the NFC championship game next Sunday.
The defensive hero of the day was Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore, whose second interception of the day near the New Orleans 30 yard line with just less than two minutes left killed any chance of an Eagles comeback. The perfectly thrown ball slipped through the hands of Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffrey.
Until then, Pederson believed the Eagles would prevail.
“I thought that we were on our way,” he said. “We got
back (in it). It just felt like the momentum at that point was in our favour.
“It felt like that major was going to continue.”
Lattimore gave the Saints their first breath of life with his earlier pick.
With a 14-0 lead in the second quarter, the Eagles became a little too aggressive for their own good. Trying to hit Zach Ertz with a deep ball down the left sideline, Lattimore jumped up and grabbed the pass.
That turned out to be the reality check the Saints needed.
Originally getting nowhere with the ensuing drive, Saints coach Sean Payton called a direct-snap fake from punt formation. Backup quarterback Taysom Hill gained the first down.
With momentum gathering, the Saints marched all the way to the Eagles two before the drive stalled. Payton gambled again on fourth down, this time resulting in a short touchdown toss to Keith Kirkwood.
Finally, the home team was on the board. And the crowd responded accordingly.
“I saw the (sound) meter get to 128, 130 .. I have never seen it that high,” said running back Mark Ingram, an eight-year veteran with the Saints. “They (the fans) brought it, and we are going to need it all the way through the playoffs.”
The day could not have started worse for the Saints.
After taking the game’s first snap, Brees was intercepted by Cre’ Von Leblanc as tried to hit Ted Ginn Jr. with a bomb over the middle.
Foles then proceeded to orchestrate a seven-play, 76-yard drive that he concluded with a 34-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Matthews. The Saints went three-and-out with the next possession, which included a no-gain run and two incomplete passes. Foles immediately went back to work, taking the Eagles on another long march, this one lasting 10 plays and covering 75 yards. Foles himself took care of the lasts 36 inches, going up the middle for the score.
After the successful convert, the Eagles were up 14-0 and 151 yards of offence.
The Saints had zeros across the board.
But while the New Orleans offence was getting its act together, the defence tightened up.
“They had us reeling early on,” said Davis. “We stayed true to our goals. We were able to stop the run, get a little pressure on the quarterback ... those two takeaways by Marshon were huge. They were game changing. It was the trump card.”
Said Brees: “We found a bunch of ways to win during the season .. many of them came down to third quarter, fourth quarter, second-half type comebacks, where it took everybody. But they were all great team victories. Looks like that’s carrying over in the playoffs.”
Both teams lost key personnel within a minute near the midway mark of the opening quarter. First, Saints defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins was carted off the field with what was believed to be a torn Achilles. A couple of plays later, another cart was out to get Brandon Brooks, the Eagles’ Pro Bowl guard.
NFL insider Ian Rapoport tweeted later that Jeffery played the game with cracked ribs; knowing about the injury through a MRI earlier in the week.
Eagles’ Alshon Jeffery lies on the Superdome turf after allowing a pass to go through his hands that led to a game-clinching interception by the Saints last night.
Saints running back Alvin Kamara is shoved out of bounds by Eagles cornerback Avonte Maddox last night in New Orleans.