Jacksonville Jaguars 45, Pittsburgh Steelers 42
What you need to know
- A week after scoring 10 points against a porous Bills defense at home, the Jaguars offense exploded and scored five touchdowns on the road against Pittsburgh. It wasn't always pretty, especially in a third quarter where they barely moved the ball, but the Jaguars offense took advantage of opportunities given to them and kept their foot on the pedal. They looked balanced and much more creative and aggressive in terms of design and execution.
- The Steelers season came to an end with a 45-42 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Steelers quickly found themselves down 21-0 after an interception and turnover on downs on 4th and inches after a sweep was quickly snuffed out. The offense battled back from early mistakes and turnovers and closed the gap late in the game, but it was not enough. Ben Roethlisberger
, LeVeon Bell
, Antonio Brown
, and Vance McDonald
all finished with exceptional stat-lines as the offense was forced to produce points while playing from behind.
QB Blake Bortles
, 61 offensive snaps, Pass: 14 - 26 - 214 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 5 - 35 - 0 - Bortles did not have an efficient day by any means, but it did not matter. He was worlds better than he was last week against the Bills, and for all the downs he had vs the Steelers, he came through big for the team when they needed him. He was a perfect 3/3 on the opening drive, perfecting play-action and distributing the ball to his tight-ends for their only catches. Throughout the game he struggled to hit vertical passes off of play action, but the heavy dosage of it proved effective anyways on Bortles' biggest pass of the game, a deep shot down the seam to Keelan Cole
for a 45-yard gain. Bortles put the ball in the perfect spot and did it while under pressure and after missing several throws of similar nature earlier in the game. Bortles also was effective on third down, frequently utilizing his running back's positions in space. Bortles was late on a couple of throws across the middle of the field but on one of the games most crucial plays, he found Marqise Lee
on a third-down slant. Bortles day was up and down, littered with good and bad decisions, but he was a big part of the victory.
RB Leonard Fournette
, 40 offensive snaps, Rush: 25 - 109 - 3, Rec: 2 - 10 - 0 (4 targets) - Before going down with an ankle injury in the second quarter, Fournette was the best player on the field. The line in front of him got some movement for the first time in weeks and Fournette took complete advantage. He wasn't making people miss, but his insane acceleration lead to several chunk runs, both inside and outside of the tackles. He was not going down on first contact and his power would lead to yards after every tackle. The first of his three touchdowns game on an incredibly athletic play, where he took off the ground and then adjusted his body in the air to score. His second touchdown featured a hurdle over a defender and terrific straight-line speed and balance to score down the sideline. His third touchdown, his only one after the injury, showing good vision and power. It is a shame we did not see him at 100% for the whole game, because it looked like he was putting together a classic.
RB T.J. Yeldon
, 19 offensive snaps, Rush: 5 - 20 - 1, Rec: 3 - 57 - 0 (3 targets) - Yeldon had potentially the biggest game of his career and played so well that he might have saved his roster spot for next season, with Chris Ivory
a healthy scratch. For starters, he gained 5-yards a pop when he was utilized as a runner, showing good vision and burst. He scored one of the Jaguars four rushing touchdowns and ran with a purpose. As a pass catcher, he lead the team in receiving thanks to his work on screens and third-down dump-offs. His biggest catch came on a dump-off to the left flat, where he took the pass into space and turned it into a 40-yard gain with his vision and speed.
RB Tommy Bohanon
, 27 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 14 - 1 (1 targets) - Bohanon will always be a candidate to score one of these random touchdowns because he is on the field so much as a lead blocker for Fournette. His score against the Steelers came off a pop-pass as Bohanon released into the middle of the field on play-action. Bohanon showed great concentration to bring the ball, his only target, in for a score.
WR Marqise Lee
, 39 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 28 - 0 (6 targets) - Lee led the team in targets with six, but only turned three into receptions. He had one poor drop on a crossing route that should have lead to a big gain, but other than that he was a victim of poor downfield throws by Bortles. With that said, two of Lee's three catches came on third down, with one coming in the fourth quarter. Lee released off the line too quickly for the corner and was able to secure the bullet pass before advancing it for extra yards.
WR Keelan Cole
, 23 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 45 - 0 (2 targets) - Cole was ignored for the majority of the game, but he continued the trend of the Jaguars entire season and became the lone recipient of one of their downfield shots. After Bortles had missed deep pass after deep pass, he connected with Cole to put the team at the goal-line. Cole ran a great vertical route down the seam, splitting two zone defenders, and came back to the ball to secure it. He showed great ball skills and vertical ability.
WR Dede Westbrook
, 42 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 8 - 0 (3 targets) - Westbrook finished the game with one catch for eight yards. He was not featured much in the game plan and was largely ignored by Bortles, including no deep targets.
WR Allen Hurns
, 17 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 12 - 0 (2 targets) - Hurns only saw two targets in the game. He did not gain much separation, having trouble with the Steelers' coverage schemes for whatever reasons. On the plays he was targeted, he dropped one pass on third down that would have been a first down if caught. It was thrown behind him and required a major adjustment, but it did hit him in the hands. It was a bad pass that should have still been caught. On his other target, again on third down, he ran an out route against man coverage and got easy separation, leading to a big gain.
QB Ben Roethlisberger
, 78 offensive snaps, Pass: 37 - 58 - 469 - 5 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 2 - 16 - 0 - Ben Roethlisberger
passed for a franchise postseason record 469 yards with five touchdowns and one interception. On the Steelers second possession, Roethlisberger was intercepted by Myles Jack, when he jumped an out-route on the right sideline. Mid second quarter with the Steelers trailing 21-0, Roethlisberger found Antonio Brown
in the left corner of the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown. Late second quarter, Roethlisberger was hit from behind and fumbled as the Jaguars returned the ball for a 50-yard defensive touchdown. With 32 seconds left in the second quarter and the Steelers down 28-7, Roethlisberger threw up a Hail Mary pass on 4th and 11 to Martavis Bryant
for a 36-yard touchdown. Roethlisberger put the pass right on target and kept the Steelers in the game. On the first possession of the third quarter, Roethlisberger delivered another clutch touchdown pass on a 3rd and long. On the play, Roethlisberger placed the 19-yard touchdown pass in a perfect spot for LeVeon Bell
. With the Steelers down 35-21 and facing another 4th and 5, Roethlisberger went deep with a 43-yard touchdown pass to Brown. On the play, Roethlisberger moved up in the pocket and threw the ball up for Brown, who was in man-to-man coverage. Late fourth quarter, Roethlisberger once again moved forward in the pocket before throwing a lateral to Bell, who ran for an 8-yard touchdown. As time expired, Roethlisberger threw his fifth touchdown of the afternoon, a four-yard pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster
RB LeVeon Bell
, 78 offensive snaps, Rush: 16 - 67 - 1, Rec: 9 - 88 - 1 (13 targets) - LeVeon Bell
finished with 155 total yards and two touchdowns. With the Steelers falling behind 21-0 early in the game, Bell didn’t have an opportunity to shine on the ground with only 16 rushing attempts. Bell did most of his damage quickly running up-the-middle often gaining chunks of yardage. Bell was a major factor in the short passing game as he was able to keep the chains moving. On the first possession of the third quarter, Bell lined up out wide and caught a 19-yard touchdown pass. On the play, Bell displayed great concentration coming down with the reception while bobbling the ball in tight coverage. Late fourth quarter, Bell caught a lateral and quickly accelerated for an 8-yard touchdown.
WR Antonio Brown
, 68 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 132 - 2 (11 targets) - Antonio Brown
returned from his calf injury and did not disappoint with seven receptions for 132 yards and two touchdowns. Mid second quarter with the Steelers trailing 21-0, Brown ran a post-route and made a spectacular one-handed 23-yard touchdown reception in the left corner of the end zone. Brown displayed amazing concentration while fighting off the tight coverage. Early fourth quarter on a 4th and 5, Brown ran a deep route for a 43-yard touchdown reception. On the play, Brown made another amazing play securing the pass as he fell to the ground.
WR Eli Rogers
, 23 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 42 - 0 (5 targets) - After finishing the regular season with only 18 catches, Eli Rogers
had five receptions for 42 yards. Mid first quarter, Rogers ran a crossing-route and “climbed the ladder” for a 13-yard reception. Rogers was helped off the field late in the fourth quarter in what looked to be a right hamstring or knee injury.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
, 71 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 5 - 1 (5 targets) - With Antonio Brown
back in the starting lineup, JuJu Smth-Schuster had a quiet afternoon with three receptions for five yards. Smith-Schuster did score a four-yard touchdown on the final play of the game. On the play, Smith-Schuster ran a quick slant and completed the touchdown reception.
WR Martavis Bryant
, 38 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 78 - 1 (4 targets) - Martavis Bryant
caught two passes for 78 yards and one touchdown. Late second quarter on 4th and 11, Bryant ran a deep route and got behind the defense for a 36-yard touchdown reception. Bryant did a good job splitting the defensive coverage and making the over-the-shoulder reception.
TE Vance McDonald
, 68 offensive snaps, Rec: 10 - 112 - 0 (16 targets) - Vance McDonald
finished with a career-best ten receptions for 112 yards. McDonald was a weapon in the short-to-intermediate passing game by picking up chunks of yards after receptions. McDonald was a reliable safety valve for Ben Roethlisberger
as the Jaguars did not play him tight.
Tennessee Titans 14, New England Patriots 35
What you need to know
- The Titans offense started strong, but inevitably floundered as the Patriots dominated their way to the win. Marcus Mariota
passed for two touchdowns while leading the team in rushing, but he was sacked eight times, due in part to the first quarter injury of right tackle Jack Conklin. Derrick Henry
got nothing going on the ground with only 12 carries for 28 yards. While Eric Decker
led the team in receiving, it was Corey Davis
in the spotlight as he scored his first career touchdown on a circus-like one-handed catch. Davis would follow that up with another touchdown in garbage time as he had the best fantasy game of his short career.
New England Patriots
- -The Jaguars defense presents a massive challenge, as they can rush 4 and get to the passer, which is the Patriots' kryptonite. Expect short passes, no huddle, a forced run game, and things of that nature.
may return, but with the way Dion Lewis
is playing, he should still be heavily involved.
-The Jags have elite DBs, and how they cover the Pats skill players will be worth monitoring, as the Pats have RBs, TEs, and WRs who can all win in the passing game.
QB Marcus Mariota
, 67 offensive snaps, Pass: 22 - 37 - 254 - 2 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 4 - 37 - 0 - Marcus Mariota
and the Titans started out hot in this game with a 95-yard touchdown drive to take an early first quarter lead over the Patriots. This drive was certainly the highlight of the game for the Titans as Mariota made some great passes while also making impressive plays with his legs, including an 11-yard scramble on third-and-seven to keep the drive alive. Mariota would convert another critical third down with a bullet to Rishard Matthews
over the middle for eight yards. Soon after that play, Mariota kept it on an option to the right as he accelerated for his second 11-yard run of the drive. Two plays later, Mariota a very impressive pass to Corey Davis
in the corner of the end zone on which Davis hauled in the one-handed circus catch for the first touchdown of the game. Mariota's second and only other touchdown would come in garbage time as he found Corey Davis
again on a well-thrown ball that Davis plucked out of the air while falling out of the end zone, barely tapping his toes for the score. Outside of that long drive in the first quarter and his couple of touchdown passes, there really were not a ton of highlights for Mariota as he was under severe pressure for most of this game. Losing his All-Pro right tackle Jack Conklin early in the game certainly did not help as Mariota would end up getting sacked eight times - the most he has been sacked in a game all season long. It was reported after the game that Mariota actually sprained his quadriceps in the first quarter of the game and played through the rest of the game with that injury, which helps explain why 31 of his team-leading 37 rushing yards all came before halftime.
RB Derrick Henry
, 62 offensive snaps, Rush: 12 - 28 - 0, Rec: 3 - 21 - 0 (4 targets) - Derrick Henry
flopped in the divisional playoff round after his big performance against the Chiefs. Henry managed only 28 rushing yards on 12 carries while hauling in three of four targets for 21 receiving yards. After back-to-back outings with over 20 carries, the game script did play a role in holding Henry back here. The Titans lost All-Pro right tackle Jack Conklin in the first quarter, and it definitely showed as Henry simply could not find room at all as the offensive line was ineffective at opening up running lanes. Henry did not rush for over four yards on a single attempt as his biggest play of the game came on a 14-yard reception on a garbage down (3rd-and-31). Henry made a huge miscue to at the end of the first half as the Titans ran him up the middle on fourth-and-one, but Henry abandoned his blocks and tried to cut back around to the left before the Patriots absolutely swallowed him up for a big loss and turnover on downs. Overall, it was a disappointing the rookie to close out the season.
WR Eric Decker
, 56 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 85 - 0 (7 targets) - Eric Decker
led the Titans in receiving with six receptions for 85 yards. Decker's first reception would have gone for 13 yards early in the second quarter if not for a very disputable offensive pass interference penalty that would end up ultimately stalling the drive for the Titans. Decker's first actual reception would come on the next drive as Decker ran right through the zone coverage of the Patriots into a wide-open hole to complete a 22-yard reception, tied for his longest of the game. Decker's second 22-yard reception came on a big third-and-ten on the final drive for the Titans which ultimately resulted in their second touchdown of the game. This was a very impressive catch made by Decker as he was falling out of bounds, barely tapping the toes to keep them in. The play would stand after an official review, marking one of the more impressive catches of the game.
WR Corey Davis
, 58 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 63 - 2 (8 targets) - Corey Davis
had the game of his career during this divisional playoff matchup as he tied for a team-leading eight targets with both of the Titans touchdowns. Davis started the game with an 11-yard out route on the Titans first possession. His next reception would be one of the biggest of his career as this was Davis's first career touchdown reception. It was a highlight reel play on which Davis executed a nice stop-and-go route that Mariota led him perfectly on to the back corner of the end zone. Davis, in full stride, hauled in the ball with one arm and pinned it to his body to maintain control for the touchdown. Davis would later come up big on a fourth-and-11 play on the Titans' final drive of the game as he tapped his toes before going out of bounds to haul in a 17-yard reception that kept the Titans drive alive. Just a few plays later, Davis found the end zone for a second time as he caught yet another fourth-down pass with an 11-yard toe-tapper falling out of bounds in the end zone.
WR Rishard Matthews
, 53 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 27 - 0 (8 targets) - Rishard Matthews
would have yet another disappointing performance to close out his season as he only managed to haul in three of eight targets for 27 yards. His longest play of the game came in garbage time as Matthews hauled in a 12-yard pass near midfield despite being held on the play. Matthews really never did look himself after returning from a hamstring injury in Week 14 as he closed out the season on quite the negative note.
TE Delanie Walker
, 52 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 49 - 0 (6 targets) - Delanie Walker
finished with only three receptions on six targets for the Titans, with 36 of his 49 yards all coming on his first reception of the game to start off the Titans' second drive. From the five-yard line, Walker ran a simple route up the seam and turned around 20-yards downfield to haul in the well-thrown pass from Mariota. Walker would then power his way another 16 yards with three Patriots defenders clinging onto him but struggling to take him down. Walker ended up being double-teamed for most of this play as the Patriots did what they do so well by taking one of the Titans' best offensive weapons out of the game.
QB Tom Brady
, 78 offensive snaps, Pass: 35 - 53 - 337 - 3 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - 2 - 0 - After struggling through the regular season, Tom Brady
turned in a great performance against an overmatched Titans squad. The first quarter saw some mild rust, but it was game on after that. Brady's first touchdown was a shovel pass to James White
that simply utilized White's speed and good blocking. His second was a short pass to Chris Hogan
who ran a semi-slant route from the inside slot. Credit the gameplan with the formation on a 4 wide set, as Tennessee defenders were a step behind with the initial look. His last touchdown was a lob to Gronk, and Gronk simply outmanned his defender, which is nothing new. Brady's biggest miss was to Brandin Cooks
on a deep throw that could have put him over the 400 yard passing mark, but given the conditions at the stadium, perhaps the cold and wind came into play. His best play was easily a scrambling cross-body throw across the field to Danny Amendola
, something you simply don't see from an elder statesmen like Brady. He will have a MUCH tougher test against Jacksonville next week, but if he can repeat this performance, look out.
RB Dion Lewis
, 43 offensive snaps, Rush: 15 - 62 - 0, Rec: 9 - 79 - 0 (10 targets) - If there is anyone who has helped lead the offensive charge for the Pats as of late, it's Dion Lewis
. He touched the ball 24 times, and has been perhaps the critical player over the last month or so. Lewis ran the ball well, and completely overwhelmed the Titans backers in the passing game with a whopping 9 catches. He got open at will, and was able to convert several key catches. Looking like one of the more explosive players on the field when he gets the ball, Lewis will once again be a focal point against the Jaguars despite getting his touchdowns 'vultured'.
RB James White
, 32 offensive snaps, Rush: 4 - 11 - 1, Rec: 4 - 29 - 1 (7 targets) - The Titans were amongst the league worst when it came to running back receiving, so it made sense James White
was involved. And involved he was, scoring two touchdowns despite relatively limited touches. His first score was a short shovel pass from Tom Brady
, and the blocking and execution were on point. The second was a run to the left where White shed a tackler and squirted through a narrow opening to just make it into the end zone. His touches will continue to be minimal especially if Rex Burkhead
is back next week.
WR Danny Amendola
, 50 offensive snaps, Rec: 11 - 112 - 0 (13 targets) - Gronk calls him Danny 'Playoff' Amendola, and with good reason. Amendola led the passing game charge, snagging everything in his vicinity, simply dominating old teammate Logan Ryan on many plays. The highlight was a scrambling across the body throw to the opposite side of the field by Tom Brady
that Amendola leaped for and caught. Other than that, it was constant chain moving and precise route running. His role is up and down, but he shows up when it matters.
WR Brandin Cooks
, 76 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 32 - 0 (9 targets) - With a relatively quiet day, the biggest highlight for Cooks was a narrow missed deep connection with Tom Brady
that would have gone for a big gain. Other than that, he simply wasn't needed because of Danny Amendola
's dominance along with running backs and the defense.
WR Chris Hogan
, 67 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 4 - 1 (4 targets) - Coming back from a long injury layoff, Hogan's only catch was a short slant touchdown. Expect him to be more involved next week, though the matchup is daunting.
TE Rob Gronkowski
, 74 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 81 - 1 (9 targets) - Gronk had a relatively solid game, and when he was in single coverage, the ball usually went his way. This included his 1 on 1 touchdown which was simply a fade type jump ball. It was fairly obvious where the ball was going at the outset, and the result was as expected. He completely alters the dynamic of the offense even when he isn't putting up 100 yard games due to defensive attention, and this was no different.
New Orleans Saints 24, Minnesota Vikings 29
What you need to know
New Orleans Saints
- This was really a tale of two halves for the Saints in Minnesota. The first half they were dominated by a smothering defense and let an efficient Viking offense put up 17 points for a comfortable lead. Then the second half came and Drew Brees
looked like his former self and Alvin Kamara
found some room to run. A small offensive adjustment took Michael Thomas
off of Xavier Rhodes and the Saints went on a 24-6 run to give them a lead with :24 left on the clock. Then the unthinkable happened, while playing prevent defense, Stefon Diggs
was able to take a 61-yard chuck and pray ball to the house for the walk-off Viking win. The entire Saints team was stunned and speechless. In a game where they fought and clawed there way back and featured 3 lead changes in the final 2:30 of play, the Saints had lost to the Minnesota Miracle. This Saints team has a lot of building blocks for the future and should be just as competitive next season.
- The Minnesota Miracle will be forever etched into Viking lore and talked about for years to come if the Vikings can finish this playoff run with a Super Bowl title. This really was a tale of 2 halves as the Vikings were outright dominant in the first half and then seemed to forget they were there to play football until there was less than a minute to go in the second half. The defense was dominant and held the Saints to under 100 total yards rushing and intercepted Drew Brees
twice. The offense managed 17 unanswered points in the first half but only managed 6 in the second half until Stefon Diggs
walk-off touchdown. This was one of the most tightly contested and best games of the playoffs thus far, but now Minnesota will have to travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles in the NFC championship game. A battle to 2 backup quarterbacks is on tap for next week with the winner heading to the Super Bowl.
QB Drew Brees
, 68 offensive snaps, Pass: 25 - 40 - 294 - 3 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 2 - 1 - 0 - At first glance, Brees final stat line looks pretty normal. He had almost 300 yards passing and threw 3 touchdowns. The interceptions did not seem to hurt as the Vikings did not turn them into many points. However, the 15 incompletions were the most he threw in a game all season and the interceptions came on the Vikings side of the field and took points off the board for the Saints. Brees could not click with Michael Thomas
at all in the first half but found their groove in the second finishing two drives with touchdowns. The first touchdown came on a 14-yard pass to Thomas who simply ran a drag across the field and beat his man to the pylon for the easy touchdown. Brees lead him just far enough that the diving defender could not make a play on the ball. The second touchdown again came to Thomas who made a small move and was open right in the seam. The 3-yard pass was almost impossible to defend as Brees got the ball out so quickly and the corner did not press him at the line. The final touchdown came on a beautiful wheel route by Alvin Kamara
. He outran Anthony Barr in the flat for the easy touchdown as his route was underneath two post routes from the outside and the defender got caught up in the wash of players. Brees did have a touchdown nullified by an illegal motion and then threw an interception a few plays later. The final Saints drive was vintage Brees. He ran the 2-minute drill to perfection and gave the Saints the lead with less than a minute left. Unfortunately, the defense could not hold on and the Saints will have to look towards next season.
RB Alvin Kamara
, 45 offensive snaps, Rush: 11 - 43 - 0, Rec: 4 - 62 - 1 (7 targets) - The vaunted New Orleans rushing attack has been nonexistent in the playoffs. Neither running back ran for more than 45 yards and the team combined for less than 100 total yards on the ground. Kamara had 1 more carry than Ingram and 4 more touches total. He had slightly more success with a 3.9 yards per carry average, but that is far from his season average. Kamara's longest run of the day was 10 yards, but most of his damage came through the air. Kamara caught a 14-yard wheel route from Brees for the final Saints touchdown and a brief lead. The rookie running back worked the wheel underneath 2 post routes and was able to outrun his linebacker in coverage for an easy touchdown. There was a very similar play in the second half where Kamara leaked out on a wide receiver pass, but Willie Snead
overthrew him for what would have been an easy touchdown. Kamara seems to be the back of the future in New Orleans and it will be interesting to see how much his role increases next season.
RB Mark Ingram
, 27 offensive snaps, Rush: 10 - 25 - 0, Rec: 1 - 3 - 0 (1 targets) - The Vikings keyed in on stopping the run like they did in their week 1 matchup and Ingram became more of an afterthought in the Saints offense. Ingram was out-touched by Kamara 11 to 15 and was not effective with the carries he was given. Ingram managed 2.5 yards per carry and his longest run of the night was 9 yards. He was also not featured in the passing game as much with his lone target and reception for 3 yards. The Vikings did a great job taking away the run and this is now 2 consecutive games that the Saints rushing attack failed to perform. Kamara is clearly the back of the future in New Orleans and it will be interesting to see what happens with Ingram in the offseason.
WR Ted Ginn
, 58 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 11 - 0, Rec: 8 - 72 - 0 (11 targets) - Ginn played a major role in keeping drives alive and moving the ball down the field. The Vikings were playing with a big bubble and respecting his ability to take the top off a defense and run by his defender. This allowed Ginn to work underneath and make 8-12 yard catches across the middle. The Vikings were quick to tackle the speedster and did not give him the chance to break off a long run. The biggest play of the day for Ginn was nullified on an illegal motion penalty by himself. Ginn proceeded to take that pass 29 yards into the end zone but had to come back after the penalty. Brees was picked off 3 plays later in the red zone and killed a very promising Saints drive.
WR Michael Thomas
, 63 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 85 - 2 (13 targets) - The first half for Michael Thomas
looked a lot like when these 2 teams first played each other. Thomas against Rhodes and Rhodes was getting the better of the matchup. The second half was a totally different story as a new scheme from New Orleans got Thomas on different defenders. Rhodes continued to play on the outside and Thomas moved around into the slot to create different matchups. The second half produced 2 touchdowns for Thomas when Rhodes was not in coverage. The first was a simple drag route across the field where Thomas outran his defender to the pylon and Brees lead him far enough that he could get in the end zone. The second was an easy 3-yard catch in the seam where Thomas made a quick move at the line and made the easy catch in front of a defender that did not press him at the line. Thomas was the target in the red zone where a tipped Drew Brees
pass was intercepted, but that had more to do with great defensive line play than anything Thomas or Brees did. The second-year receiver wrapped up an amazing season and will be the focal point of the Saints passing attack for years to come.
WR Willie Snead
, 46 offensive snaps, Pass: 0 - 1 - 0 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rec: 2 - 18 - 0 (3 targets) - Snead makes the list this week more for something he was not able to complete than any other stat or catches he made in the game. Late in the second half, the Saints dug into their bag of tricks for a wide receiver pass. Brees motioned Snead towards the formation and looked to be throwing a simple quick screen play. However, Kamara had leaked out of the backfield and did not have a defender within 5 yards of him. Snead overthrew Kamara for what would have been an easy touchdown and would have given the Saints all of the momentum in the second half. Just a little less air under this ball would have changed the entire outcome of the game.
QB Case Keenum
, 81 offensive snaps, Pass: 25 - 40 - 318 - 1 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 1 - 4 - 0 - Keenum looked to be cruising in the first half with a comfortable lead over the Saints and the ability to move the ball down the field. However, this all changed in the second half when Drew Brees
and the Saints offense woke up and started to put pressure on Keenum to answer their scores. Keenum's stats are inflated due to the late 61-yard touchdown to Diggs to win the game and really do not paint an overall good picture of how he played. Keenum was not as accurate as he has been all season and missed on 15 passes today. He also had trouble driving the ball down the field and relied mostly on short passes and run after the catch from his receivers. Keenum also did not handle the pressure very well and had a habit of just heaving the ball down the field in the hopes that one of his receivers would come down with it. These jump balls were truly 50/50 as one was intercepted and the other was a highly acrobatic 24-yard catch by Adam Thielen
. Keenum was rescued by the 61-yard chuck and pray touchdown to Stefon Diggs
and he will have to play much better next week if he wants to earn a trip to the Super Bowl.
RB Latavius Murray
, 36 offensive snaps, Rush: 19 - 50 - 1, Rec: 2 - 17 - 0 (2 targets) - If there was 1 weakness to this new and improved Saints defense, it was the running game. The Vikings had a comfortable lead going into the second half and tried to exploit this weakness to no avail. Murray had 19 carries but only averaged 2.6 yards per carry. He was often met in the backfield and could barely get past the line of scrimmage. He did have a 13-yard touchdown run nullified by a holding penalty, but he was still able to cash in from the 1-yard line later on that same drive. Murray's touchdown run was pure power running up the middle and capped off a drive aided by over 50 yards in pass interference calls on the Saints. Murray was largely ineffective in the second half and this allowed the Saints to fight back and take a late lead. Murray was used sparingly in the passing game and managed 13 of his 17 receiving yards on a single play. Murray will have to play better next week if the Vikings want to beat the Eagles and advance to the Super Bowl.
RB Jerick McKinnon
, 44 offensive snaps, Rush: 8 - 34 - 1, Rec: 3 - 6 - 0 (4 targets) - McKinnon had a very similar day to Murray and was really unable to get much going on the ground. He did score the first touchdown of the game for the Vikings with a 14-yard scamper off the left end. He was able to outrun the entire Saints defense and was untouched on his way to the end zone. McKinnon has always been the change of pace back to Murray, but neither could find much success. McKinnon did average 4.3 yards per carry to lead all running backs, but he was not given enough volume to really make a difference. Murray had 21 touches and McKinnon was only given 11. This has been par for the course all season long for the Vikings and will most likely continue through the rest of the playoffs.
WR Adam Thielen
, 77 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 74 - 0 (9 targets) - Thielen played an integral part in keeping Viking drives alive this week but was held out of the end zone once again. Keenum looked to Thielen several times but did not give him much room to run with his passes. Thielen made several leaping and diving catches to bail out Keenum and move the chains. The biggest play of the day was a 24-yard reception where Keenum threw the ball off his back foot and it sailed high towards Thielen and 2 defenders. A similar pass had been intercepted earlier in the game but Thielen was able to go up and bring this ball in for a Viking first down. Thielen was hobbled on a tackle out of bounds late in the first half and did not seem to have the same speed and ability to cut for the rest of the game. There was no official injury ruling and he should be good to go next week but it is something worth watching as the week progresses.
WR Stefon Diggs
, 66 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 137 - 1 (10 targets) - The Minnesota Miracle is a direct result of Diggs not giving up in the waning seconds of the 4th quarter. Diggs had put together a solid game until this final play but really pushed things over the top with his 61-yard walk-off touchdown. During the bulk of the game, Diggs would make contested catch after contested catch and helped the Vikings move the chains in the first half. Then the second half rolled around and Keenum was erratic and the Vikings could not move the ball down the field. The final play of the game was the big story with Diggs running a deep crossing route and then coming back to a ball that Keenum launched up in the air down the sideline. Diggs went up high to get the ball and the Saints safety dove at his legs and missed entirely. Diggs came down and braced himself with his hand and was able to run into the end zone untouched. It looked as if his first thought was to get out of bounds and try a game-winning field goal. This is when Diggs noticed that there was no one in front of him and he galloped into the end zone and into Viking lore for the rest of his life.
TE Kyle Rudolph
, 71 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 28 - 0 (8 targets) - Rudolph was not used as much this week with Diggs and Thielen receiving most of the work. Rudolph had 8 total targets but was unable to really do anything with the ball once he caught it. Keenum's passes were either high or along the sideline with no room to run for Rudolph. One of the more questionable decisions of the game was throwing the ball to Rudolph late in the 4th quarter and the big tight end running out of bounds rather than sliding inbounds to keep the clock rolling. The Vikings were in position to run the clock down and kick a game-winning field goal but decided to throw the ball 3 times and only complete it once to a receiver that ran out of bounds. This did not come back to haunt the Vikings in the end but would have been pointed to as what cost them the game in the end if Diggs had not scored that touchdown.
Atlanta Falcons 10, Philadelphia Eagles 15
What you need to know
- The Atlanta Falcons struggled against the strong interior defense of the Philadelphia Eagles. Devonta Freeman
struggled to run in the interior and Matt Ryan
faced frequent interior pressure. Atlanta found running success along the perimeter with Tevon Coleman, but did not establish volume in the running game. Julio Jones
led the passing game, but was unable to catch two late end zone opportunities that would have given Atlanta the lead.
- The Eagles played it safe in this game and ended up grinding out a win utilizing their defense to setup their offense this week. Nick Foles
was highly efficient in this game and took low-risk throws to complete a high percentage of his passes and move the ball as the team was content in taking long drives and holding time of possession. Jay Ajayi
started the game off tremendously, but coach Doug Pederson
rotated the backs after initial success from Ajayi which ultimately caused Ajayi to stall out and lose the momentum that he had gained early on in the game.
QB Matt Ryan
, 63 offensive snaps, Pass: 22 - 36 - 210 - 1 TD / 0 INT - Matt Ryan
faced pressure throughout the game and was frequently forced to scramble. His lone touchdown was on a play where he had to improvise out of the pocket and dump the ball off the Devonta Freeman
in the end zone. Ryan had the opportunity for another touchdown late, but was unable to connect on two end zone targets to Julio Jones
. Jones arguably should have caught both passes, with the last one going threw his hands. Ryan targeted Jones 16 times, and the Philadelphia defense did a good job containing him, while the rest of the receiving corps did little to help Ryan.
RB Devonta Freeman
, 35 offensive snaps, Rush: 10 - 7 - 0, Rec: 5 - 26 - 1 (5 targets) - Devonta Freeman
struggled because of Philadelphia's strong defensive front. Atlanta tried to establish Freeman on the interior with little success, while Tevin Coleman
had strong perimeter runs throughout the game. Freeman caught the second most passes with five, but he was unable to much traction. Freeman's touchdown came on a dump off pass from Ryan in the red zone where he had room underneath the defense.
RB Tevin Coleman
, 27 offensive snaps, Rush: 10 - 79 - 0, Rec: 1 - 14 - 0 (1 targets) - Tevin Coleman
had the same number of carries as Freeman (10), and was far more effective (79 to 7 rushing yards). Coleman's usage came on the perimeter, where he was able to outflank Philadelphia's defense multiple times. His long carry was a 21-yard misdirection toss play. Coleman's rushing was the most effective portion of Atlanta's offense, but they continued to rotate Coleman with Freeman throughout the game. Early success to perimeter.
WR Julio Jones
, Rec: 9 - 101 - 0 (16 targets) - Julio Jones
was heavily involved in the offense with 16 targets, but was unable to get a lot going. His long catch was a dig route that was a crucial fourth down conversion for 21 yards. Outside of that, Jones was mostly tackled at the catch. Jones three late targets in the red zone but was unable to convert for a touchdown. The first was a fade which Jones could not elevate to catch. He then caught a slant that was just short of the end zone. On the last play, Jones was targeted by a scrambling Matt Ryan
, and the ball when through his hands because of Jones's poor hand technique. The red zone struggles by Jones are a common refrain, and likely to be an offseason narrative.
WR Mohamed Sanu
, 51 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 50 - 0 (5 targets) - Mohamed Sanu
had the second most receiving yards for the Falcons with 50. Sanu's work was primarily in the middle of the field, and nearly had the opportunity for a bigger day. He was unable to catch a target on a red zone seam route, and drew a personal foul on a hit to the head on the play. Sanu was also targeted deep along the perimeter, but a miscommunication resulted in an overthrow on the play.
QB Nick Foles
, 67 offensive snaps, Pass: 23 - 30 - 246 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 5 - -2 - 0 - Nick Foles
was incredibly efficient in this game as the Falcons allowed him to throw underneath and Foles did not try to take on risks just taking high probability safe throws throughout this game. This was in large part due to Foles took a deep shot to Torrey Smith
on the first play of the game and the ball fluttered but the Eagles were bailed out by a pass interference penalty. Foles' longest throw of the day was on a swing pass to Jay Ajayi
. Overall, the Eagles will likely need more out of Foles in the coming weeks especially if the game script dictates that they fall behind, but the Eagles stuck to a game plan of keeping Foles in a game manager type role for this week. Eight of Foles' 23 completions were to running backs as the Eagles looked to take advantage of the Falcons weak spot all season which is defending the running backs catching the ball out of the backfield.
RB Jay Ajayi
, 29 offensive snaps, Rush: 15 - 54 - 0, Rec: 3 - 44 - 0 (5 targets) - This was a rollercoaster type game for Ajayi this week. After a fumbling on his first carry of the day, he then looked as if he was going to have a monster game as he was running hard and effective behind Jason Kelce. From a running standpoint the defense for the Falcons made adjustments to slow Ajayi down after the first quarter as Ajayi had 49 yards at the end of the first quarter on seven carries and somehow only had eight carries for five yards the rest of the game. The team seemingly abandoned him for a period of time going with Corey Clement
and LeGarrette Blount
for periods of time and Ajayi was not able to get back in rhythm once this occurred. Ajayi did have great success as a receiver as he was used as a safety valve for Foles on a play that he caught the ball about five yards behind the line of scrimmage and was able to use his speed and power to turn this into a 32 yard gain.
RB LeGarrette Blount
, 20 offensive snaps, Rush: 9 - 19 - 1 - Blount was primarily used for short yardage carries in this game as he saw the goal line work this week. While he did score a one-yard touchdown on fourth and goal, he seemingly was not utilized except for short down plays which has been his role for the past few weeks and we expect this role to continue in the future.
WR Nelson Agholor
, 51 offensive snaps, Rush: 2 - 20 - 0, Rec: 3 - 24 - 0 (3 targets) - Agholor was seldomly used in this game as he saw just three targets. The biggest issue for the Eagles wide receiver was that he was being asked to run deep routes or clear out routes which ultimately created space for the pass receiving running backs. This is a continued trend for Agholor who has not been highly utilized since Nick Foles
WR Alshon Jeffery
, 56 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 61 - 0 (5 targets) - Alshon was quiet for most of the game with the exception of a key drive in the third quarter which setup the go-ahead field goal for the Eagles. Jeffery came up huge on this drive as he had three catches and created matchup problems for Desmond Trufant utilizing his size to go up and make the play as Jeffery accounted for 46 of the team's 74 yards on this drive. Outside of this drive, Jeffery saw just two targets as the team seemingly stayed away from trying to test the Falcons' secondary this game.
TE Zach Ertz
, 59 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 32 - 0 (5 targets) - The Falcons seemingly game planned to take Ertz out of this game as they held him to just five targets this week which in the two full-games that he had played with Nick Foles
he saw 23 targets. The Falcons bracketed Ertz for a lot of this game which made it difficult for Ertz to get open. He was able to make a key first down to extend the drive for the Eagles which ultimately led to the field goal which made it 15-10 on a quick slant that defender Brian Poole fell down and the safety who was bracketing him was not able to get over in time.