For this team, that was a fitting.
A forced and recovered fumble. A stop on a punt fake. A clutch touchdown pass. ANOTHER forced and recovered fumble.
And that was all In the final 10:21 of the fourth quarter.
The New Orleans Saints (13-2) earned the No. 1 seed in the NFC on Sunday with a 31-28 victory over Pittsburgh in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and they did it by making all the key plays they needed to make in the fourth quarter, helping them overcome a blocked field goal attempt and four-point deficit. It's hard to put a finger on all the heroics, but here goes:
SPECIAL TEAMS: Linebacker Craig Robertson has a nose for this stuff, and it shows. He sniffed out the fake field goal attempt by the Rams, stopped punter Johnny Hekker short of the first down, and provided a pivotal play in that 45-35 victory. And Sunday against the Steelers, he sniffed out Pittsburgh's fake punt on fourth-and-5 from the Steeler 42. Fullback Roosevelt Nix, the punt protector, took the snap and bulled his way into the line at left guard. Robertson met him and tackled him after a 4-yard gain. The Saints took over on downs – essentially, a turnover – and turned the short field possession into the game-winning touchdown. Robertson initially made the roster in Cleveland because of his special teams play, and he continues to make crucial plays on special teams.
OFFENSE: Can't go wrong here with Drew Brees (27 of 39 for 326 yards and a touchdown). Or with Ted Ginn Jr., who returned from injured reserve to catch five passes for 74 yards, including a 25-yarder on third-and-20 to keep alive the game-winning touchdown drive. Or with Michael Thomas, who caught the game-winner – a 2-yarder from Brees – to cap an 11-catch, 109-yard day. So I'll be "right," and go with all three: the quarterback (Brees) who passed for 175 yards in the second half and masterfully orchestrated the offense, the receiver (Ginn) who played for the first time since Sept. 30, and the receiver (Thomas) who has 120 catches this season, shattering his single-season mark of 104 set last year.
DEFENSE: Safety Vonn Bell (a team-leading 10 tackles) had some memorable, jarring hits. But Demario Davis also plays noticeable football, and he does it every single game. Sunday, that meant a 9-yard sack on a perfectly timed blitz, taking Pittsburgh from second-and-5 to third-and-14, a tackle for loss, a quarterback hit and the fumble recovery that sealed the victory, with 32 seconds left. Davis now has five sacks this season, tying the career high he set last season, but to see him is to appreciate his ability to be in the middle of everything – run defense, coverage, blitzing. Can't say enough how important he was as a free agent signing.
Check out the Week 16 game action between the Saints and Steelers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 23, 2018.