New Orleans' fourth-down conversion sparked a comeback after trailing 14-0 in the second quarter.
Sean Payton and the Saints opened their bag of tricks against the Eagles in their 20-14 victory in the NFC divisional round on Sunday, which was headlined by a fake punt in the second quarter. Payton dialed up the play with New Orleans trailing 14-0, and trusted backup quarterback and special-teams ace Taysom Hill to pick up a first down.
The call for a fake punt was bold on multiple levels. In addition to going for a first down despite a two-score deficit, New Orleans ran its fake punt directly up the middle at All-Pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. Why did Payton run right at an All-Pro? The answer is revealed after some light tape study.
The NFL Network program "NFL Turning Point" detailed New Orleans' strategy in a clip released on Thursday. In the video, New Orleans notes Cox prefers to sit back in punt coverage. Instead of rushing the punter, Cox relaxes, often putting his hands on his hips as the ball is snapped. With a newfound hole to attack in Philadelphia's defensive line, the Saints capitalized.
Watch Turning Point analyze the Saints' successful fake below.
Never take plays off.— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) January 17, 2019
👀 Incredible video:
On one of the biggest plays of the game, the Saints WANTED to run a fake punt into the Eagles *regular defense* because they knew Fletcher Cox was going to play passively from film study. They ran right at him & converted the 1st down. pic.twitter.com/DhlWD8Yt9Q
The fake punt helped spur New Orleans' comeback after trailing 14-0. The Saints will host the Rams on Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The winner will claim the NFC crown and advance to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta.