Saints upset Eagles, 20-10, still get eliminated from NFL playoff contention
PHILADELPHIA (WVUE) - The Saints pulled off a stunning upset of the NFC’s top team Sunday (Jan. 1), but not even a 20-10 road victory over the Eagles kept them from being eliminated from playoff contention.
Tampa Bay’s 30-24 victory over the Carolina Panthers -- finished minutes after the Saints won -- gave Tom Brady’s Buccaneers (8-8) the NFC South division title and automatic playoff berth.
The Saints’ shocker over the Eagles kept open a narrow path to an NFC wild-card bid, but only for about 3 1/2 more hours, as it turned out. Green Bay’s 41-17 rout of the Minnesota Vikings mathematically eliminated the Saints (7-9) from playoff contention just before 6:30 p.m.
The Saints host the 6-10 Panthers next weekend at Caesars Superdome for the final game of their disappointing seasons (day and time still to be determined by the NFL).
New Orleans was run out of the NFL’s playoff picture at a time when the team was finally hitting its stride. The Saints’ victory Sunday was their season-high third in a row, coming after they forced a lackluster performance by Eagles quarterback Gardner Minshew, who was starting in place of injured MVP candidate Jalen Hurts.
The Eagles were seeking to clinch the NFC’s No. 1 seed and first-round playoff bye, along with what would have been their franchise-record 14th win. Philadelphia was 6-1 at home coming into Sunday’s game.
Yet the Saints dominated the first half, taking a 13-0 lead into the break.
New Orleans launched the game with a masterful 15-play opening drive, marching 75 yards and keeping the ball for nearly 9 minutes before Taysom Hill punched through for a 1-yard touchdown plunge and a 7-0 lead.
Wil Lutz stretched the lead to 13-0 with a pair of second-quarter field goals.
Lutz hit from 54 yards out with 8:35 left in the half for a 10-0 edge. He made it 13-0 with a 20-yard kick with 3:08 left in the quarter. That scoring kick, however, was something of a letdown, coming after a 58-yard strike from Andy Dalton to rookie Rashid Shaheed set the Saints up with a first-and-goal at the Philadelphia 6-yard line. Two carries by Alvin Kamara and one by Hill failed to punch it in, the drive stalling at the Eagles’ 1 and keeping Philly within two scores.
The Eagles mounted a comeback in the third quarter, scoring 10 unanswered points on a 56-yard field goal by Jake Elliott with 11:03 left in the period and a 78-yard touchdown pass from Minshew to A.J. Brown. With 58 seconds left in the third, the Eagles had drawn within 13-10.
New Orleans had welcomed cornerback Marshon Lattimore back to action -- for the first time since he sustained an abdominal injury in Week 5 -- and his return proved crucial.
As Philadelphia launched what might have been its game-winning drive with 5:31 to play, Lattimore darted in front of a receiver to intercept a Minshew pass and return it 12 yards for a Saints touchdown. Lutz’s extra point provided the Saints’ final 10-point winning margin.
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