Week 19 Game Recap: Philadelphia Eagles 24, New Orleans Saints 27
What you need to know
RB Brian Westbrook topped last week’s performance with more Eagles’ postseason records. Westbrook ran for 116 yards and a 62 yard touchdown, the longest in Philadelphia playoff history, breaking his six day old record of 49 yards. Westbrook ran untouched for the first 50 yards behind two key blocks by L.J. Smith, whose eight yard catch near the goal line set up Westbrook’s picturesque first touchdown of the game on a huge dive over the pile to get in the end zone.
WR Donte Stallworth returned to New Orleans in a big way, catching a 75 yard touchdown from QB Jeff Garcia. The touchdown also set a record for the Eagles as the longest passing touchdown in the postseason. Garcia scrambled and bought time in the pocket long enough to complete passes to eight different receivers, including three to WR Reggie Brown, all of which went for 20 yards or more.
WR Hank Baskett had one official catch of 25 yards, but lost a crucial 20 yarder on a fourth down play in the final two minutes of the game as the Eagles were called for a false start prior to the snap. The Eagles chose to punt the ball away with two timeouts and try to force another punt, but the Saints picked up a first down and Philadelphia never got another chance.
RB Deuce McAllister led the Saints’ ground game to a record performance of 208 yards as a team on the ground. McAllister had 143 yards rushing, a team playoff record, including a hard fought five yard touchdown, and later added an 11 yard touchdown catch. RB Reggie Bush contributed 52 yards on the ground including a fantastic athletic run for 25 yards when he appeared to be hemmed in for a loss of four yards on the play. Bush also scored from four yards out on another improvised run to the right corner pylon for the six points.
Bush had two miscues that nearly cost the Saints, fumbling once in each half. WR Terrance Copper fell on the first fumble, but the Eagles recovered the second late in the game, but were unable to convert the turnover to points.
WR Marques Colston was targeted 12 times, the most of any Saint, but the first few passes from QB Drew Brees were well off the mark. Colston finished with five catches to lead all New Orleans receivers. Brees connected with eight different Saints for a combined 243 yards and no interceptions. The only touchdown pass for Brees came in the third quarter on a short pass in the flat to McAllister. The Saints thought they may have had a touchdown on a Hail Mary to Colston to end the first half, but officials did not review the play and the original call of incomplete stood.
WR Devery Henderson caught just one pass, but it was the longest of the day for the Saints. Brees connected with Henderson for 35 yards to the Eagles’ four yard line to set up PK John Carney’s second field goal.
Seldom used TE Billy Miller caught four passes for 64 yards as both he and TE John Owens (one catch, 21 yards) filled in after starting TE Mark Campbell was shaken up early in the first half.
Punter Steve Weatherford ran for 15 yards and a first down on a punt attempt where he should have been blocked by the Eagles’ Sean Barber. Weatherford pulled the ball back in and took off, running untouched and out of bounds for the fourth down conversion.
What you ought to know
|QB Jeff Garcia, Pass: 15 - 30 - 240 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 4 - 9 - 0|
Garcia completed only half of his passes as he had to scramble and run out of the pocket on several occasions. Garcia did manage to connect with eight different receivers, including former Saint WR Donte Stallworth for a 75 touchdown pass in the second quarter. Garcia threw the long pass 60 yards in the air to Stallworth who had broken free down the middle of the field.
Garcia’s 50% accuracy rate was held down by several drops by his receivers, including RB Brian Westbrook who dropped four. His passes were not always on the mark, as a few early throws were nearly intercepted in the game. Garcia did connect with WRs Stallworth, Reggie Brown and Hank Baskett for five passes of 20+ yards in the game, not including a 20 yard pass to Baskett on fourth down late in the game that ultimately did not count due to a false start penalty.
Garcia was on the run often, but he was mobile enough to take just one sack and still not throw an interception. He scrambled for nine yards and lost another 20 on a holding penalty.
Westbrook topped 100 yards for the second playoff week in a row, highlighted by the longest Philadelphia rushing touchdown in postseason history of 62 yards in the third quarter. Whose record did he break? His own record of course, once again originally set last week (49 yards). The Saints had thin defensive coverage on the right side on that particular play, as TE L.J. Smith made two key blocks to spring Westbrook through the line untouched. Westbrook never had a finger on him until the last 10 yards.
Westbrook added his next two longest carries of the game after the 62 yard score, an 18 yard run in the third followed by a 15 yard sprint in the final period, both good for first downs. He finished with an average of almost nine yards per carry. One of his prettiest runs was for just one yard, but it was a beautiful leaping dive over the line at the Saints’ one yard line for his first score of the game.
The passing game for Philadelphia suffered due to Westbrook, however, as he dropped four catchable passes against the Saints. He did reel in three short passes for a scant five yards, but three screens and a short pass over the middle fell to the ground off of Westbrook’s hands.
Buckhalter had just three carries, losing ground on two of those plays. He also caught a short eight yard pass in the second quarter, and was targeted a second time in the third. Buckhalter was open about 20 yards downfield but the lower trajectory throw hit the LB covering him (former Eagle Mark Simoneau) in the back of the helmet.
Tapeh was able to go despite being injured, and he was the intended receiver on a third and one near the Saints goal line in the fourth quarter. The Eagles decided to call his number for the first time all day, and New Orleans defended the questionable call well and tackled Tapeh for a loss. QB Jeff Garcia was hurried on the throw and the play never had much of a chance.
Brown opened his playoff game performance with a 20 yard catch for a first down in the opening period, and then was targeted deep in the same quarter by QB Jeff Garcia about 30 yards downfield but the pass was off target (and Garcia was also across the line of scrimmage). Brown added two long passes after that, picking up 32 yards and a fresh set of downs in the second quarter on a third and long (11). Brown’s final catch was a 24 yard out on a rainbow of a pass from Garcia in the fourth quarter, where Brown did a nice job to remain in bounds. His fifth and final target was thrown well out of bounds as Garcia threw it away.
Stallworth returned to The Big Easy (he missed the first contest in Week 6) to score the first Eagles touchdown of the game, a deep 75 yard pass from QB Jeff Garcia. Stallworth got open deep and Garcia threw it 60 yards in the air, a high arcing throw that landed in Stallworth’s awaiting arms. This was his third target, as Garcia finally connected with Stallworth after two deep passes fell incomplete in the first quarter. Stallworth’s fourth and final target of the first half was a quick slant pass that hit him in stride, but he dropped the ball.
Stallworth added two catches for 25 yards and two first downs in the third quarter, both good enough for first downs. Those two passes were his final targets of the game, as he could not break open in the final quarter.
Baskett had a better game than his one catch for 25 yards would seem to indicate. He was targeted three times in the first half, starting with a 15 yarder that sailed too high over his head in the first quarter that was almost intercepted. His second target was an improvised pass by a scrambling Garcia who wildly threw the ball in his general direction. The third was finally a completion, good for a 25 yard gain as Baskett was wide open on a third and six.
Baskett had two more targets in the second half, but the first was thrown behind him on a third and long. The fifth was the most important, as Baskett did make a 20 yard catch on fourth down and 10 for Philadelphia – but it did not count, as the play never officially happened due to a false start penalty.
Lewis had two targets against the Saints, both coming in the second half. Lewis was the intended recipient of two deep passes, one each in the third and fourth quarters, that would have picked up about 20 yards each for Philadelphia but neither was completed. The first pass sailed over Lewis’ outstretched arms, and the second was a sideline out route that led Lewis by about one step too far.
Smith had three targets for the Saints game, one in each of the first three quarters. The first was an errant pass that was nearly intercepted, but the second was a key eight yard gain that put the Eagles to the New Orleans’ one yard line. Smith almost scored on the catch but was clearly down just outside of the goal line (RB Brian Westbrook scored on the next play). Smith caught a 15 yard pass over the middle in the third period for a first down on his final target.
Schobel caught a short five yard pass in the first quarter on his only target of the game.
Akers made all of his kicks, including a short 24 yard field goal in the fourth quarter to add three more points to his three extra point kicks.
The Saints ran for 208 rushing yards and 15 first downs, which was the reason why they did not win this game. RB Deuce McAllister (143 yards, one TD) and Reggie Bush (52 yards) were a formidable 1-2 punch against which the Eagles had no answer.
QB Drew Brees had 243 yards but just one touchdown on a short pass to RB Deuce McAllister. The Eagles racked up three sacks and lost another on a penalty call. Without Pro Bowl DB Lito Sheppard, the Eagles fared well enough in pass coverage to stay close all game.
|QB Drew Brees, Pass: 20 - 32 - 243 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - -2 - 0|
Brees completed 20 passes for 243 yards, connecting with eight different receivers. Brees recovered from a shaky start, missing his favorite target in WR Marques Colston on errant passes, to settle down and complete 11 of 20 before halftime.
Brees distributed the ball well, getting it in the hands of both of his running backs and all three of his tight ends. His third RB, Aaron Stecker, actually had a touchdown within in his grasp but Stecker could not pull in the difficult catch in the end zone. Brees also finished the first half with a 45 yard Hail Mary attempt that was nearly in Colston’s hands long enough for a touchdown, but was ruled incomplete.
Brees used his backup TEs (Billy Miller and John Owens) to the tune of four catches and 78 yards in the third quarter, while throwing his only touchdown of the game on a short pass to RB Deuce McAllister who ran 11 yards for a touchdown. With the game nearly decided in the fourth quarter, Brees only attempted four passes in the final period, but his final toss to Colston was for 13 yards and a key first down that chewed away precious extra time off the clock.
McAllister was the unsung hero for New Orleans this season, and he showed the national viewing audience why he was once a Pro Bowl running back. McAllister ran hard all game, gaining 143 yards and setting team and individual records for New Orleans all game. He had 40 yards after just two carries, which set the tone for the rest of the way. He finally reached the end zone in the third quarter on a five yard carry that looked more like a rugby scrum than an NFL run, as a swarm of Eagles and Saints moved the pile over the goal line for a tough six points.
McAllister added 20 yards as a receiver, including an 11 yard pass from QB Drew Brees on a high toss to the left flat that McAllister took into the end zone for his second score of the game.
McAllister closed the books on the Eagles and the game on the final drive, where he gained 14 yards on three carries to run out the clock.
|RB Reggie Bush, Rush: 12 - 52 - 1, Rec: 3 - 22 - 0 (5 targets)|
Bush had some remarkable plays against the Eagles, including several change of directions that were reminiscent of many of the great runners ever to play in the NFL. Bush looked to have been stopped for a four yard loss in the first quarter on a run to the right, yet he stopped, changed direction, and ran for 25 yards around to the left side of the field. Bush added a touchdown in the second quarter, as again he ran the play as it was intended (up the middle) then bounced it around the right side and kicked over the pylon to outrun the defense for the score.
Bush did have some miscues that reminded everyone that he is still a rookie, as he fumbled twice and nearly cost the Saints the game. His fumble in the second quarter was recovered by his teammate, WR Terrance Copper, but the second fumble came very late in the fourth quarter and was the only turnover of the game. Bush dropped an easy toss from QB Drew Brees and the Eagles had the opportunity to tie or win the game.
Bush added 22 yards as a receiver, all coming on screens, which is remarkable in that he was drilled by DB Sheldon Brown on the second play of the game on one of the hardest hits you will ever see. Bush was fortunate to take that kind of punishment and return to the game.
Stecker had one target in the second quarter in the end zone on a pass near the sideline. The ball hit his outstretched hands, but it was a difficult catch to make.
Colston was the most targeted receiver by QB Drew Brees by a wide margin, getting 12 passes thrown his way. Brees had trouble settling down early, as the first few short passes were well off the mark. Colston finally grabbed a short pass for four yards on his fourth target of the first quarter but fell short of the first down on third and seven.
Colston’s most active quarter was the second, as he had six targets. Colston had a pass go over his head near the goal line, then finally getting a sizeable catch of 14 yards and a first down on his next target. Colston added a five yard catch then another for 19 and a fresh set of downs on a third and seven, which was thrown short of the first down marker but Colston broke the play for additional yardage by making two Eagles miss. His final target was the last play of the half, where Colston had a Hail Mary pass of 45 yards hit him in the hands. Colston fell to the ground with the ball in his grasp, but Philadelphia appeared to strip it out just in the nick of time. The play was not reviewed despite HC Sean Payton’s pleas for a replay.
Colston had a quiet second half, getting just two targets. He had one ball thrown behind him on a slant pass in the third quarter, but his 13 yard catch for a first down in the waning minutes of the game was a big first down for New Orleans.
Henderson caught one pass for 35 yards in the first quarter on a sideline route where he managed to stay in bounds on the catch but went out at the Philadelphia four yard line, setting up the Saints with a first and goal situation. He was also targeted on a 20 yard pass just before the half, but the ball was really just thrown away out of bounds by QB Drew Brees.
Copper caught just one short pass for three yards in the first quarter, as his only other target came in the final period, where he was overthrown on a route that took him about 30 yards down the middle of the field.
Copper’s biggest contribution of the game came where he fell on top of a fumble by RB Reggie Bush, an important recovery amidst several Eagles defenders who were trying to create the turnover.
Miller caught all four of his targets, starting with a short seven yard catch in the second quarter just before halftime. Miller performed well in the third quarter, as he caught three passes for 15, 29 and 13 yards, all down the middle of the field. Miller picked up two first downs for the Saints on his final two catches, which were his last targets for the game.
The rarely used third TE John Owens caught a 21 yard pass down the seam in the third quarter for a first down on his only target of the game.
Campbell had just one target, catching a 23 yard pass down the middle of the field in the opening quarter for a first down. Campbell was shaken up on the play and reserve TEs Billy Miller and John Owens filled his role as a receiver.
Carney was successful on all of his kicks, adding two field goals of 33 and 23 yards in the first half to his three extra points.
RB Brian Westbrook ran for over 100 yards and a 62 yard touchdown, which set a postseason record for the Eagles for their longest touchdown on the ground. The saving grace for the Saints was that Philadelphia had only five rushing first downs and did not mount a consistent ground game.
The Saints applied good pressure on Eagles’ QB Jeff Garcia, but managed to get just one sack and forced no turnovers. Philadelphia also had five plays of 20 or more yards, including the 75 yard touchdown to WR Donte Stallworth. Philadelphia hurt their cause more by dropping several passes and on penalties than by a stellar Saints defensive performance.