New Orleans Saints

What Eagles' DBs can learn from Saints disaster

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What Eagles' DBs can learn from Saints disaster

With just a few seconds left in Sunday's Vikings-Saints game, Eagles cornerback Patrick Robinson walked away from his television and went to throw out some garbage. 

"I thought it was over," Robinson said. 


By the time Robinson walked back inside, his friends were eagerly waiting to tell him what he missed. Somehow, the Vikings pulled off a miracle 61-yard, walk-off touchdown pass. Rookie safety Marcus Williams whiffed on a tackle that would have ended the game. And the elusive Stefon Diggs scampered into the end zone. 

For the Eagles' defensive backs, seeing that mistake on Sunday served as a reminder. 

"Make that tackle and we're playing the Saints, but he misses that tackle and now the Vikings are here," safety Rodney McLeod said. "Just like that, your season can be taken away from you in the playoffs."

McLeod, Robinson and Corey Graham, three veterans of the Eagles' secondary, said they feel really bad for Williams, a rookie who had a good season until the last play that ruined it. Robinson pointed out that Williams actually had a huge interception earlier in the game that will be all but forgotten. 

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson stressed the importance of situational awareness all week heading into the divisional round. McLeod thinks that missed play will be a teaching moment for the Eagles this week. The Eagles always show their players a bunch of those types of plays in two-minute situations. They all know their responsibilities on them. 

"That's crazy," Graham said. "That might be like one of the worst plays I've ever seen. It's tough. I feel sorry for that guy. We all know that situation. He's supposed to be outside that guy, don't let him get out of bounds, so that's what he's thinking. So I'm pretty sure that's why he ran out of bounds, ran outside like that, trying to get outside leverage. But, I mean, I don't know, man. You've gotta do something. Either play the ball or make the tackle. It's tough, you don't obviously want to let the guy score the touchdown and lose the game like that. You've gotta find a way to make that play."

Graham broke it down a little further. He said if he was in that situation, he would have tried to play the ball. There were two choices: Either play the ball or back up some and allow the receiver to catch the ball and then tackle him in bounds.

Williams unfortunately saw what was behind Door No. 3.

"What you can't do is be too conservative where you do neither and the guy catches the ball and scores a touchdown," Graham said. "It's a tough situation for that guy. I feel sorry for him. I wish him the best."

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz declined to say specifically how his defense would handle a situation like the one the Saints found themselves in with 10 seconds left on the clock Sunday. Schwartz didn't want to lose any kind of tactical advantage; the playoffs are stressful times. 

But he did say his players are coached up for those types of situations. 

Having been a defensive assistant in Tennessee during the 1999 season, Schwartz was at Adelphia Coliseum on Jan. 8, 2000, when the Titans pulled off the Music City Miracle.  

"Playoff football, those plays are big," Schwartz said. "And they're remembered for a long time." 

Unfortunately for Williams, he's going to be remembered from Sunday for the worst possible reason. He's going to be remembered as the guy who blew the game and the Saints' chance at a Super Bowl. That's something he'll have to live with and it seems like he's determined to not let this blunder define his career. Good for him. 

For the Eagles, his mistake serves as a reminder of the importance of doing their individual jobs and of the fragility of life in the NFL playoffs. 

"I know he's a good player and he would like to have that play back," McLeod said. "The one thing is, you don't get it back, man. You have to make the most of every play, every opportunity and every second out on that field."

Who's next? 6 things to watch in today's Saints-Vikings game

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Who's next? 6 things to watch in today's Saints-Vikings game

A ticket to the NFC Championship game will be punched and a trip to the Linc to face the top-seeded Eagles will be booked when the Minnesota Vikings host the New Orleans Saints this evening at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

NBC Sports Philadelphia's Derrick Gunn breaks down key points and matchups to watch for as the two teams battle for the right to face the Eagles with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line next Sunday.

• It all begins with the two head coaches. The Saints' Sean Payton and the Vikings' Mike Zimmer are longtime friends, having coached together on the Dallas Cowboys' staff from 2003-05. Payton was the offensive coordinator in Dallas while Zimmer was the defensive coordinator. Both are intense, creative and successful minds and have very similar styles of coaching. The difference: Payton is an offensive mastermind while Zimmer is a defensive guru. Zimmer's defense finished ranked No. 1 overall in the league this season. Payton's offense was No. 2 overall. Let the chess match begin.

• Keep an eye on the matchup between Minnesota all-pro cornerback Xavier Rhodes and Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas. Thomas, in just his second year in the league out of Ohio State, finished sixth in the league in receiving with 1245 yards. Rhodes, Thomas' adversary Sunday, is one of the best cover corners in the game. He's got two picks and 44 total tackles on the season.

• Vikings wideout Adam Thielen finished fifth in the NFL during the regular season with 1276 receiving yards. There should be a really good battle between him and Saints' rookie first-round pick, cornerback Marshon Lattimore. Lattimore finished tied for fifth in the league with five interceptions this season.

• This game features three premiere edge-rushers. Minnesota's Everson Griffin and Danielle Hunter teamed up for 20 sacks this season. Griffin finished tied for fourth in the league with 13 sacks, while Hunter supplied seven of his own. The Saints' Cameron Jordan also had 13 sacks this season. Drew Brees and Case Keenum are both pocket passers, but is any of those guys break into the pocket, look out.

• Keep an eye on the battle in the trenches between the Vikings' defensive line and the Saints' offensive line. Minnesota has a fierce pass rush, but New Orleans allowed just 20 sacks in the regular season, second fewest in the entire league.

• Which QB will do the best job of completing plays? Brees and Keenum, the latter of whom is an unlikely MVP candidate, have been two of the best this season at staying upright. Brees has been sacked just 20 times. Keenum has been sacked just 22 times. Both guys have an uncanny ability to keep plays alive and make something out of nothing.

For more analysis on the Eagles and their opponent in next Sunday's NFC Championship Game, tune into tonight's Mission Minneapolis playoff special on NBC Sports Philadelphia following the Saints-Vikings game.

Divisional round predictions as NFL playoffs heat up

Divisional round predictions as NFL playoffs heat up

Derrick Gunn makes his divisional round predictions.

Falcons at Eagles, Saturday, 4:35 p.m. on NBC
The defending NFC champion Falcons backed their way into the playoffs, and then last weekend made an impressive postseason showing on the road against the Rams. But this isn't the high-powered Falcons' offense that averaged 33 points per game in 2016. In 2017, with basically the same personnel, it struggled to average 22 points. But the difference this season, the Falcons' defense has played better. The team's front seven is on the small side, but fast. The secondary is aggressive and well versed in man-to-man coverage. 

The jury is split on Nick Foles and whether he can handle the postseason pressure or not. The Falcons' D is not stout against the run. The Eagles have the necessary stable of backfield horses and need to establish a ground game early and stick to it. Go north and south against the Falcons, not lateral, which plays to their defensive speed. Doug Pederson needs to shorten up the passing game to keep the heat off Foles. Jim Schwartz's guys up front have to get to Matt Ryan to make him as uncomfortable as possible and keep Ryan from finding Julio Jones.

When the Falcons have scored 20 or more points this season, they're 11-0 (including the playoff win over the Rams). When they've been held to 17 points or less, they're 0-6. The Linc will be rocking. The Eagles feel disrespected that they're the underdogs. This should be a knockdown drag-out brawl. When the dust settles, look for the Eagles to still be standing.

Pick: Eagles, 23-17

Titans at Patriots, Saturday, 8:15 p.m. on CBS
An impressive wild-card comeback win by the Titans at Kansas City. The Patriots are heavy favorites but don't underestimate the fight in the Titans. They beat Jacksonville twice this season and pulled off a shocker over the Chiefs. Titans RB DeMarco Murray will miss a third straight game because of an MCL tear, but Derrick Henry is capable of a heavy workload. Henry ran for 156 yards on 23 carries vs. K.C. Tennessee can run on the Patriots' 29th-ranked defense, but scoring is another matter. The Pats give up only 18.5 points per game. New England will be hard-pressed to find success trying to run against the Titans' fourth-ranked run defense, but that's OK because Tom Brady and his top-ranked offense live through the air. The Titans have been a great story, but the defending Super Bowl champs will write the final chapter to Tennessee's season.

Pick: Patriots

Jaguars at Steelers, Sunday, 1:05 p.m. on CBS
Back in Week 5 of the regular season, the Jaguars sent a message to the rest of the league that they were for real when they rolled over the Steelers — which included picking off five Ben Roethlisberger passes. After that embarrassment, the Steelers went on to win 10 of their final 11 games. I can't wait to see Antonio Brown back on the field, going against arguably the best cornerback tandem in the league in Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. Jacksonville's rugged second-ranked defense will have to be at the top of its game to slow down the Steelers' offense. Blake Bortles is a limited quarterback and that will be the Jags' demise against the blitzing Steelers. The Jags' defense can only keep the Steelers' O from scoring for so long, and without getting much help from its offense, Jacksonville will have a long disappointing flight home.

Pick: Steelers

Saints at Vikings, Sunday, 4:40 p.m. on FOX
New Orleans has come a long way since its season-opening loss to the Vikings, but so has Minnesota. What's not to like about the Vikings' No. 1 defense (275.9 yards per game allowed; No. 2 vs. the run at 83.6 yards per game; and No. 1 in scoring defense at 15.8 points per game)? Drew Brees will need RBs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram to loosen up the Vikings' defense in the run and pass game. Both RBs tallied over 1,500 yards of total offense this season. Vikings QB Case Keenum has had a phenomenal season — 67.6 completion percentage, 22 TDs, seven INTs. The Vikings' defensive front will apply the pressure, but Brees has been dropped only 21 times this season. So many scenarios could play out in this one, but the Vikings are tough to beat in their home (7-1 home record). They will successfully defend their turf.

Pick: Vikings