There were no shortage of people stunned by the Minnesota Vikings’ 26-20 road win over the New Orleans Saints in the wild-card round of the NFC playoffs.
If you believe in taking the best quarterback-coach combination in the playoffs — long considered to be one of the best postseason indicators for success — then Sean Payton and Drew Brees, at home, vs. Mike Zimmer and Kirk Cousins seemed to be a lock.
So how the hell did the Saints become the first team to finish 13-3 and lose in the wild-card round? Well for starters, Cousins made two of the best throws of his career, including the game-winner in overtime.
Beyond that? Well, let’s just say Brees didn’t have the best of days, which is the first among the “Things I Noticed” from a fun opening weekend of the playoffs.
As it relates to Brees, maybe people are forgetting this, but the Vikings’ defense is really good. Minnesota ranked seventh in DVOA this season. As such, Zimmer’s group used constant pressure to harass the 40-year-old Brees into a 208-passing-yards performance off 26 of 33 attempts. He threw for a touchdown, had an interception and a fumble, and again struggled to stretch the field vertically.
Don’t underestimate the importance of those turnovers. The Saints surrendered the ball only eight times all season, which takes a remarkable combination of skill and good fortune. The outcome was an indication of how impressive Minnesota’s defense was on Sunday, as it also found a way to limit the sensational Michael Thomas to 70 yards on seven catches and Alvin Kamara to 55 total yards on 15 touches.
Brees’ performance was disappointing and it was his third straight mid-grade outing overall. But I chalk it up to his opponent rather than a quarterback who completed 74 percent of his passes for nearly 3,000 yards, 27 touchdowns and four interceptions in only 11 games. If that’s washed, then at least two dozen teams would be better off with this version of Brees.
We’ll theoretically have an opportunity to see that in 2020, since he’ll be an unrestricted free agent in March. But after we recently saw Tom Brady win a Super Bowl with some of the same limitations Brees has, the smart thing for the Saints to do would be to attempt one last run with the future Hall of Famer.
In the meantime, how about we chill on the Brees “washed” talk, alright?
I like that, Anthony Harris!
One of the coolest moments of the 2019 season occurred when Kirk Cousins, minutes after the biggest win of his professional career, yelled “You like that!” at his teammates and was quickly mobbed with glee.
But let’s take a moment to appreciate one of the game’s most underrated players — fifth-year safety Anthony Harris.
(Full disclosure: Harris has been a personal favorite of mine since 2015, when I rated him the draft’s best free safety and gave him a third-round grade. He went undrafted due to injury concerns.)
The things I liked about him in college — ball skills and instincts — have translated to the NFL. Harris, 28, has enjoyed a breakout campaign this season, logging 60 tackles, 11 pass deflections and a league-high six interceptions as he mounted an All-Pro case. He even snagged a pick in the Vikings’ surprising win over the Saints, officially putting everyone on notice:
Harris is slated to be an unrestricted free agent this season. He’s about to get paid.
All the ways the Texans miss Will Fuller
Yes, Deshaun Watson went into Michael Jordan mode as the Texans rallied from a 16-point deficit to beat the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, but they definitely missed receiver Will Fuller.
You may be hard-pressed to find a guy who isn’t even a Pro Bowler who has as big of an impact on an offense in these playoffs. And as I explain in this week’s edition of Terez’s Tape — which is expertly stitched together by my main man Ron Schiltz — his availability will determine how dangerous the Texans’ offense will be in their divisional-round road test against the Kansas City Chiefs. Check it out below:
DK Metcalf’s ridiculous draft plunge
Look, I was never crazy about DK Metcalf as a first-round pick. For as rocked-up as he was physically at 6-foot-4 and 229 pounds, I was concerned about his poor testing scores in agility drills, iffy injury history and middling production at Ole Miss. I didn’t think he checked enough boxes to be a first-round guy.
But based on size, speed and strength alone, he was an early to mid second-round pick all day. That’s where guys who have great ability but a few significant concerns typically go, and that’s why I was shocked when Metcalf landed 64th overall to the Seattle Seahawks.
So yeah, it’s been cool to see him kill it this season. After a regular season in which he caught 58 passes for 900 yards and seven touchdowns, he lit up the Eagles in the Seahawks’ wild-card game win on Sunday, hauling in seven passes for 160 yards and a touchdown:
The best part about it: Metcalf is the sort of player the Eagles — who chose J.J. Arcega-Whiteside instead of him seven picks prior — needed once DeSean Jackson went down: a legit deep-ball threat that defenses had to account for. Arcega-Whiteside will be a red-zone monster, despite a rookie year statline of 10 catches for 169 yards and a touchdown, but he didn’t catch a ball Sunday, and there’s no doubt Metcalf would have been more useful on this Eagles team.
Oh well, Philly’s pain is Seattle’s gain. Keep rockin’, DK.
A tremendous goal-line stand
The New England Patriots deserved to lose their wild-card game against the Tennessee Titans for two reasons: First, they got their asses handed to them up front on both sides of the ball. Seriously, the Titans’ lines were dominating to such a comical degree on critical downs that their dark blue helmets looked like they were outright enveloping the silver helmets of the Pats.
Secondly, the Patriots also lost because they simply couldn’t get a hat on (or block, if you’re not into football dork parlance) the Titans’ second-year linebacker, Rashaan Evans.
Anytime you take an inside linebacker in the first round, he better be the truth since it’s not considered a premium position. While the 24-year-old Evans is still developing as a player, particularly in coverage, he shows flashes of being really good. And in racking up a game-high 10 tackles, he was all over the place Saturday. Nowhere was his presence felt more than when the Patriots got first-and-goal at the Titans’ 1-yard line, only to see Evans snuff out their rally with a pair of incredible tackles, holding them to a field goal:
Turns out the Patriots could have used the points.
I can’t wait to watch what Evans — who finished the season with 111 tackles — can do against the run-dominant Baltimore Ravens on Saturday night.
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