By Danny Cox
The New Orleans Saints were not expected by many people to win in the cold and on the road as they faced the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs. It was thought that the Saints wouldn’t be able to play in the cold yet again and get their first ever road playoff win.
Those expectations were wrong, but not by a lot. The Saints were able to overcome some early mistakes and fix things, but it was the foot of new kicker Shayne Graham that saved the day when it truly counted…in the final seconds.
Coaching Grade: C+
Sean Payton seemed to change his game plan at halftime, and it was absolutely necessary. In the first half, the Saints had good things going, especially in the run game, but then they would abandon it. It ended up leading to two costly interceptions by Drew Brees that stopped good drives.
In the second half, Payton stayed with the ground-and-pound, and it worked just as the Saints needed it to.
Offense Grade: B-
Drew Brees looked quite awful in the first half as he threw two costly interceptions and couldn’t get anything going. He improved in the second half, but the turnovers were a big problem and kept this game a lot closer than it should have been.
The running game worked better against Philadelphia than it had for the Saints all season. Mark Ingram found big holes and ran to the outside well as he had 97 yards on the ground and a touchdown. Undrafted rookie Khiry Robinson also plowed through the Eagles’ line to pick up big yardage. It was truly successful on the last drive as the Saints ran out the clock.
Defense Grade: B+
The defense played really well, but injuries hurt them late in the game. DeSean Jackson had been shut out most of the game, but once Keenan Lewis went out with an injury, rookie Rod Sweeting got picked on. Nick Foles was sacked twice and held to under 200 yards passing.
The biggest thing is that the Saints were able to contain the NFL’s top-rushing offense to a mere 80 yards. LeSean McCoy was not much of a factor the whole night.
Now, if only some of the injuries can heal up before the trip to Seattle next week.
Special Teams Grade: A+
Shayne Graham was truly the star of the night as he hit all four of his field goal attempts with a new team, in the cold, on the road, and on a field that was not always in the best condition. He hit from 36, 46, 35, and finally 32 yards to keep the Saints in it and win the game.
Thomas Morstead punted three times, but had a low average of 35 yards per attempt.
Darren Sproles had a decent game in the returning aspect of things. His biggest came on the final kickoff of the night where he returned it 39 yards and was then helped with a 15-yard horse-collar tackle by Cary Williams.
Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. Danny is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.