New Orleans Saints vs. Philadelphia Eagles: Live Grades and Analysis for Saints

James Ermilio@jimmyermilioCorrespondent IIIJanuary 4, 2014

The Saints are aiming for the NFC Divisional Round.
The Saints are aiming for the NFC Divisional Round.Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Shayne Graham knocks in the game-winning 32-yard field goal, and we're on to Seattle!

Final Score

New Orleans Saints 26

Philadelphia Eagles 24

Check below for halftime and postgame grades and analysis!

New Orleans Saints Game Grades
Positional UnitHalftime GradesPostgame Grades
Pass OffenseFC-
Run OffenseB+A
Pass DefenseB+B
Run DefenseAA-
Special TeamsBA
Bleacher Report

Postgame Analysis for the New Orleans Saints

Pass Offense:  Drew Brees' overall numbers aren't sparkling, but he had a much-improved second half after one of his worst first halves in a long time.  Brees finished with a single TD pass and two picks, but he threw no second-half picks and threw for 152 yards in the second half. Nine different receivers had catches for the Saints' spread-it-out offense.

Run Offense:  Where has this Mark Ingram been? Wherever he's been, the Saints are sure happy he showed up tonight.  Ingram finished with 97 yards and a touchdown on 5.4 YPC.  Rookie Khiry Robinson chipped in with 45 yards on eight carries as the Saints racked up 185 yards on the ground in this game.  The run game was especially huge on the Saints' final drive, picking up a key first down to help the run clock all the way down and turn Graham's attempt into a chip shot.

Pass Defense:  The Saints defense didn't generate any turnovers in this one, but they did contain the Eagles big-play offense.  Once Keenan Lewis left with an injury, DeSean Jackson had a few big plays (including a drawn PI to set up an Eagles TD) but the Saints held Foles to just 5.9 YPA.  The pass rush was inconsistent for New Orleans, but the coverage overall was strong.

Run Defense: LeSean McCoy finished with just 77 rushing yards, though 45 of those yards came on 11 second-half carries (4.1 YPC).  Overall, the Saints have to be happy with their performance in slowing one of the league's most explosive running backs. McCoy's longest run on the day was just 11 yards, a testament to the Saints' ability to limit big plays from McCoy. 

Special Teams: A huge runback by Darren Sproles (buoyed by a flag for horse-collar tackling) set the Saints up with a short field on their final drive.  Then, Shayne Graham booted in the game-winner as time expired, his fourth of four perfect kicks.

Coaching:  Rob Ryan dialed up a defense that slowed the Eagles' biggest weapons (both LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson had middling performances by their standards) and Sean Payton's big-play offense got everyone involved.  Seven different receivers had catches of over 10 yards for New Orleans.  The Saints did hurt themselves with seven penalties and two turnovers, but they managed a beautiful final drive to kill the clock and kick the game winner.  New Orleans now heads to Seattle for a rumble in the NFC Divisional Round. 

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 04:  Lance Moore #16 of the New Orleans Saints celebrates with teammates Brian De La Puente #60 after scoring a 24 yard touchdown thrown by Drew Brees #9 in the third quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles during their NFC Wild
Al Bello/Getty Images

Halftime Analysis for the New Orleans Saints

Pass Offense: Statistically, this was arguably Brees' worst first half of the season. He completed just 56 percent of his passes for a paltry 5.4 YPA and only 98 yards.  He also threw two picks, the second of which was a horrible decision and set up the Eagles' only touchdown.  The Eagles have focused on taking away Darren Sproles (one catch for six yards on four targets) and have been physical with TE Jimmy Graham off the line.  

Run Offense:  Mark Ingram has come alive recently for the Saints, and his strong performance continues into this game.  Leading one of the most balanced gameplans we've seen from the Saints this year (16 rushes, 18 passes), Ingram has 41 yards at a 5.9 YPC clip.  New Orleans racked up 94 rush yards, just four fewer yards than Brees totaled through the air in the first half.

Pass Defense: The Saints did a respectable job limiting YAC in the first half, leading to Nick Foles' 5.4 YPA.  They've also held DeSean Jackson catchless thus far, and the back seven has done a great job in coverage.  What has been lacking is New Orleans' usually strong pass rush.  Cameron Jordan and the Saints front haven't pressured Foles at all; he's had all day in the pocket.  We'll see if the Saints dial up the pressure in the second half. 

Run Defense:  New Orleans has done a phenomenal job of containing LeSean McCoy and the Eagles' run game.  McCoy finished with just 32 yards on 10 carries as the Saints stayed home in base for much of the half and dared the Eagles to throw.  

Special Teams:  Shayne Graham's two FGs are the only points in the game for New Orleans.

Coaching:  After a season of domination through the air, the Saints have opted for a balanced attack offensively.  Six first-half points and two turnovers later, it's clear that Sean Payton and the Saints coaching staff need to rethink their strategy.  Brees has been off on a few deep throws, but he took the Saints this far and New Orleans will need him if they hope to keep their season going.  Defensively, the Saints have played well behind Rob Ryan and may have shut out Philadelphia if Drew Brees hadn't yielded a short field to Philly's offense via interception.