The Saints and the Rams had something in common after the Divisional Round. They both defeated an NFC East opponent to punch their ticket to the NFC Championship game. The Rams took care of business first against the Cowboys. They beat the Cowboys and their talented defense 30-22 using their run game.
The Saints took a little longer to get going. They essentially came off two bye weeks to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles. After falling behind 14-0, they scored 20 unanswered points the rest of the way to take home a six-point win.
This will be an exact rematch of earlier in the season when the Rams traveled to New Orleans and suffered their first loss of the season 45-35. This game finished with 80 points and 970 yards combined between both teams. Should we expect the same in this game? Yes and that includes the same result. That is the Saints coming out on top and punching their ticket back to the Super Bowl.
3- Mercedes-Benz Superdome
Back when the Seahawks featured the Legion of Boom and made two straight Super Bowl appearances, they were deemed the best crowd because they set noise records. Even with what happened in that time, it is hard to say they are better than the loyal fans in New Orleans. Year in and year out, the Saints play in front of a crowd that dresses up and comes to games ready to make life difficult for the opposing team. That is exactly what they did on Sunday. They faced adversity early and had to be shocked. Drew Brees was picked off on the first play of the game. New Orleans blinked and they found themselves down 14-0.
Fans understood it was still early and they rallied behind their squad. Nick Foles and the Philadelphia offense struggled with the noise all night. They committed three false start penalties and were forced to burn a timeout on their first possession in the second half. That timeout came back to be costly late in the game when they trailed 20-14.
The numbers speak for themselves. They were 6-2 at home with one having an asterisk next to it. Week 17 saw them rest their starters in a game against the Carolina Panthers. They averaged 35 points per game in the Superdome. The Saints finished with just 20 points against a strong Eagles’ defense but they were able to make plays when it counted and went on long drives to eat up the clock. The crowd was impressive throughout the entire season but they came into the playoffs smelling a Super Bowl. They showed up against the Eagles like they want to be a reason that their teams wins and they very well might be.
2- Michael Thomas
Heading into the game against the Eagles, Drew Brees was the main focus and rightfully so. Brees had arguably the best season of his career and is an MVP candidate this year. Going into the match up against the Rams, the focus has changed to Michael Thomas. Mr. Reliable, Can’t Guard Mike. People have called him a lot of names this season and he has proven to be worth it. He finished this season with 15 catches for 1,409 yards and nine touchdowns. A percentage of those stats came against the Rams.
In the Saints regular season match up with Los Angeles, Thomas finished with 12 catches for 211 yards and one touchdown. He was open all night and Marcus Peters was not happy about it. Peters had some words after the game and Thomas will be using that to fuel the fire heading into the game.
Against the Eagles, Thomas made big play after big play. Down 14-10, the Saints went on an 11:29 drive that ended in a touchdown to take the lead. After a holding penalty made it second-and-20, Brees found Thomas over the middle for 20 yards and a first down. Later in the drive, the Saints faced a third-and-16 where Brees found Thomas again for 20 yards and another first down. The drive ultimately ended with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Thomas.
Thomas has solidified himself as one of the best receivers in the game and he might be number one on the list after this season. Showing up when it matters most creates a legacy for a player and Thomas is on the right track. Another dominant game against the Rams could really put a mark on his season.
The numbers were mentioned before. Last match up saw a ton of points and yards. These teams went up and down the field against each other all game long. This time around, the Saints defense has the ability to make plays and it could come down to strong defense being the difference.
The one knock on the Saints over the years was their defense. They featured one of the worst defenses in the league for many years but they have since solved the problem. Cam Jordan is playing at a high level and Marshon Lattimore is one of the best talents in the game. Down 14-0 after the first quarter, the defense put it on them to shut Philly down. The Eagles ran 14 plays on their first two touchdown drives and finished with 47 for the game. They finished the game with 250 total yards and two turnovers, both interceptions by Lattimore. The Saints sacked Foles twice and shut down the Eagles’ run game. They were held to just 47 yards on the ground.
The Eagles do not feature an explosive offense like the Rams do. Los Angeles can score in so many ways and they have players who can break a game open on both sides of the ball. Watching this Saints’ defense, they look like a group that will not be happy with their offense having to outscore teams.
They look like they want to impact the game in their own way. Against the Rams, it will be hard to stop them completely. The Saints will look to slow them down enough and make the big play at the end of the game like they did against Philadelphia. Any production on the defensive side of the ball is a win for the Saints and that is what they are going to get at home.
Source: “Los Angeles” – Google News