It was a roller coaster of a game, but the New Orleans Saints pulled off a second-straight unprecedented victory on the road Sunday. Their 20-10 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles started off looking like a complete mismatch in the Saints’ favor, but the Eagles defense kept things interesting until the New Orleans defense punched back and iced a huge victory.
Even though the Eagles were without star quarterback and likely MVP Jalen Hurts, Gardner Minshew led their offense to 27 points on Christmas Eve (with a defensive touchdown boosting them to 34 points a week ago). The Saints did the unexpected and, even though they didn’t get the help they needed from the Carolina Panthers, still have a path to postseason life. Here are our biggest takeaways from an action-packed win in the City of Brotherly Love:
NFL games are 60 minutes long
The Saints absolutely dominated the first half of this game. They limited the Eagles to just 3 points and a pair of first downs, both of which gained in the final 11 seconds of play. They out-gained the Eagles in total yards by nearly 200 and dominated time of possession.
Unfortunately for New Orleans, the game didn’t end after the first half. Philadelphia would come back with a ton of momentum to start the second half packing on 194 total yards in those fifteen minutes alone after only accumulating 61 in the first half. Meanwhile, the Saints ran only 11 plays in the third period.
Saints quarterback Andy Dalton passed for 164 yards in the first half, but finished the game with only 30 more. Thankfully for New Orleans, they did enough to get a win and got a huge boost from a key return on the defensive side. Goes to show that even fast starts need strong finishes.
Marshon Lattimore's return proved fruitful
After missing ten games with a lacerated kidney and abdominal injuries, Lattimore returned to the field just in time to win the Saints a game. New Orleans was in a clear and obvious tailspin before the four-time Pro Bowler jumped a route deep in Philadelphia’s own territory to not only intercept a pass, but put points on the board.
The Saints had been on a 27-minute and 37-second scoring drought, the offense was not able to sustain drives, and so the defense and Lattimore found a way to come up big. After the interception, Minshew did not look like the quarterback he had settled into being in the second half. He played a more timid and frenetic brand of signal caller which ultimately sealed the win for the Saints. And it was all because of Lattimore’s lockdown capabilities.
Saints DE Cameron Jordan is a future Hall of Famer
In just 191 games, Jordan now owns the Saints franchise record for sacks all-time with 115.5. Surpassing the 115 mark previous set by Hall of Fame linebacker Rickey Jackson. This is a record that Jordan has had his eyes on for quite some time. The accolades don’t stop at the sack record, though it’s an enormous accomplishment.
Jordan has been an ironman missing only two games for which he was eligible to play, one each in the last two season. The first absence was due to a COVID outbreak that sidelined the majority of starters in 2021 and the second was due to a broken orbital bone he suffered early on in the Saints loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He has also now strung together 11 seasons in a row with 7.5 or more sacks. Jordan has been available, impactful, and dominant during his 12-year career. And he still has more time to pad the stats.
The Saints cannot let Kaden Elliss get out of the building this offseason
After another 1.5 sack game, Elliss now sits with 7 sacks on the season. He has made measurable strides in coverage and has proven that he is a starting linebacker talent in the NFL. As a round seven selection in the 2019 NFL draft, the Idaho Vandal was not on many radars outside of the Saints facility. This year, he has seen some opportunities due to injuries at the position and he has taken advantage of every chance he has gotten.
He’s tallied 5.5 of his season sacks in the last 8 weeks as well as 61 combined tackles (37 solo). He will become an unrestricted free agent after this season barring a late-year extension. He, along with tight end Juwan Johnson, has continuously headlined our “must keep” outgoing Saints free agents.
Carl Granderson may be in position to swipe Marcus Davenport's bag
Davenport might be a first round selection. Granderson may be an undrafted free agent. But if you had to choose to pay one or the other this offseason, who would you pay? The answer is pretty obvious at this point. Thankfully for New Orleans, Granderson is on contract through the 2023 year, but it is not at all out of the question that contract talks could get started a little early. Especially at a premier position like edge rusher.
However, New Orleans will have to make a decision regarding the fate of Davenport’s future with the team more immediately. The defensive end will play out his fifth-year option at season’s end and will become a free agent. Based on his production this season, just one half sack on the year, it seems likely the Saints will allow Davenport to walk and test the market while continuing to invest in Granderson. The Wyoming product had 1.5 sacks against the Eagles on Sunday, following up a game-winning performance against Cleveland a week ago.
The Saints defense has been elite down the stretch
In addition to Lattimore pick-6, the New Orleans defense continued an impressive run of games holding the Eagles to just 10 points. The defense has not allowed an opponent to score more than 20 points over the last seven weeks. Over the last five, the Saints are allowing only 13.6 points per game. Those numbers make them one of the best in the NFL.
Beyond the scoreboard, New Orleans put the league’s best offense on ice for the majority of 60 minutes, they came up with a massive stop on 4th and one against the league’s best quarterback sneak team, and put points on the board. A fantastic performance to extend what has been an impressive stretch of play for the very talented unit.
There is a slim chance that the Saints could still make the playoffs
“So you’re telling me there’s a chance?” Yeah, technically. Though it is certainly a longshot. The Saints can no longer win the atrocious NFC South thanks to the Carolina Panthers melting down late against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But there is still a path to the postseason for New Orleans. Here’s what they’ll need from here:
- Minnesota Vikings beat Green Bay Packers
- Saints beat Panthers
- Packers beat Detroit Lions
- Dallas Cowboys beat Washington Commanders
- Los Angeles Reams beat Seattle Seahawks