Alshon Jeffery is going to be the scapegoat only because every close game seems to end up with one—something to do with human psychology, I suppose. Yes, he let the ball go through his hands for a game-sealing interception in the Saints’ 20-14 playoff win. But there are plenty of other things to blame, or credit.
Like the Eagles going scoreless over the game’s final 49:37, or a generally pedestrian start from Nick Foles, after his and Philly’s red-hot first two drives. Or being unable to stop the Saints at any point in their epic, 18-play, 92-yard drive that took up 11:29 of the third quarter and gave them their first lead, and the only one they’d need. Or maybe—just maybe—the Saints are a really goddamned good team on both sides of the ball, and a tough Eagles team deserves a ton of credit for hanging with them for so long, and Philadelphia’s magic just ran out. It happens.
The magic looked alive when the Saints inexplicably ran a deep handoff on a third-and-8 late in the fourth quarter, losing three yards and making that much more difficult kicker Wil Lutz’s attempt to make it a two-score game. Lutz missed the ensuing 52-yarder, and Sean Payton appeared pissed at Drew Brees; apparently Brees had audibled.
It looked like the Eagles were going to be the beneficiaries of that dark magic again, as Foles drove them into Saints territory, trailing by only six. But on the fourth play of the drive, Alshon Jeffery couldn’t bring in a well-thrown ball, Marshon Lattimore was there to scoop it up, and that was that. It was the Saints’ first-ever playoff win where they scored fewer than 25 points.
A bummer of a way for the Eagles to lose, but the NFL ultimately got the best final four. The four highest seeds, the four highest scoring teams, two old great quarterbacks and two young ones, and there isn’t an unappealing Super Bowl permutation in the bunch.
Still: damn, that’s gotta hurt.