Special teams mattered in a big way for the Saints in their win over the Eagles.
One of the key plays in the Saints’ 20-14 Divisional win over the Eagles wasn’t a traditional offensive or defensive play.
At the start of the second quarter with the Saints trailing by 14 points, New Orleans called a fake punt on fourth down with offensive weapon/quarterback Taysom Hill.
Taysom Hill barrels his way to a #Saints first down on 4th-and-1!#PHIvsNO pic.twitter.com/4XPt8cFbgK
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) January 13, 2019
The Saints were able to get enough push on the play to secure a first down. Their front line, primarily comprised of linebackers that play special teams, got just enough push against the Eagles in order to let Taysom Hill slip by.
What’s interesting about this play is that the Eagles were expecting the Saints to run a fake punt. They’re crowding the line of scrimmage on the play and only have one person guarding each of the Saints’ punt gunners — in a normal punt situation they would have two players guarding the Saints’ punt gunners.
This means that the Eagles had eight defenders in the box, which is what teams send onto the field when they’re expecting a run between the offensive tackles. Also, the Eagles had multiple defensive starters on the field — Brandon Graham, Malcolm Jenkins, and Jordan Hicks were on the field for this play.
The fact that the Saints were able to convert this without a single offensive starter on the field is remarkable.
After the Saints picked up this first down, they marched down the field to score their first touchdown of the game to cut the lead to 14-7. It was a gutsy call by head coach Sean Payton to call the fake punt and even better execution by the Saints’ punt team to get the job.
New Orleans might need a playcall like this in their NFC Championship rematch against the Los Angeles Rams. Last time the Saints and Rams played it was a 45-35 shootout that was intense until Michael Thomas ended the game with a 72-yard touchdown.
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