As much of a shootout as Saturday’s early game between the Chiefs and Colts was, the day’s second game, a matchup between the New Orleans Saints and the Philadelphia Eagles, was a battle of wits between two offensive minded head coaches.
Although the game was ultimately decided by a late field goal, the real battle was between Chip Kelly and Sean Payton. Chip Kelly’s quarterback, Nick Foles, played up to his normal level. He didn’t make big mistakes, and he managed his team’s offense very well. Drew Brees wasn’t as sound for the Saints, but his playoff experience proved to be enough to help push the Saints beyond a charging Eagles squad.
To be fair to both teams, there was very little to complain about from an execution standpoint. The Eagles’ offense was slow to get to their usual form, but then again, so was the Saints’ offense. Defensively, both teams held their own until late in the game.
Although it’s one of the most overused clichés in football, Saturday night’s game really did come down to which team held the ball last. The Saints were set up in great field position following a horse collar penalty on a late kickoff return. From that point, the Saints relied on their ground attack to set up a game winning 32-yard Shayne Graham field goal.
The Saints will have to turn around and head to Seattle to play in one of the most hostile environments in football. Even so, Seattle’s climate may be a bit more beneficial to the Saints’ high flying style of offense than other locations that they may run into later in the postseason. Although the Saints may have been the last team into the playoffs on the NFC side, they’re also one of the most dangerous.
The loss will be tough for the Eagles to swallow, but their future is already in front of them. They now have a young franchise quarterback, and with more experience, Chip Kelly’s offense will only get more crisp and potent.
On the AFC side of Saturday’s games, the Chiefs gave away a game that the Colts had essentially gifted to them in the first half. It was a sloppy game in which both teams did their best to give the playoff win away. That was never the case between the Saints and Eagles. Both sides played sound games, and in the end, experience, or maybe it was just luck, won out. The Saints are a dangerous wildcard team, and with the confidence boost that will come with a win in Philadelphia, there’s no reason the Saints can’t go the distance.