The playoffs began in the NFC tonight as the Philadelphia Eagles hosted the New Orleans Saints at Lincoln Financial Field.
The forecast was for below freezing temperatures and a chance of snow. The Saints backed into the playoffs finishing their season losing three of their last five and the NFC South to the Carolina Panthers.
Meanwhile the Eagles closed out the season winning two in a row and four of their last five. The Saints had never won a road playoff game going 0-5 in the team’s history.
You would expect a game with the second (Eagles) and fourth (Saints) best offences in the NFC to be high scoring but that is not how the first quarter went. In fact if you look, both teams combined for just over 100 yards, five punts, an interception by Drew Brees, and a missed field goal by Alex Henry.
The second quarter was a clear improvement over the first, but that was not a hard bar to exceed. The Saints moved the ball with a higher level of efficiency in the second quarter with two 40-plus yard drives culminating in two field goals but one drive stalled on yet another uncharacteristic Drew Brees interception.
Meanwhile the Eagles were able to put one solid drive together with the assistance of McCoy, culminating in a 10 yard touchdown from Nick Foles to Riley Cooper. So at the half the Eagles led 7-6 in a game that was uncharacteristically low scoring for both squads.
The second half watched the game that most were expecting to see begin to take shape. After a four and out to start the third quarter by the Eagles the Saints put together a seven play drive. Powered by the legs of Mark Ingram, the drive culminated in a 24 yard touchdown from Drew Brees to Lance Moore. After another Eagles four and out the Saints marched down the field in nine plays for another touchdown putting the visiting Saints up 20-7 on the Eagles. Mark Ingram ran for 26 yards and a touchdown on the drive.
Just when it seemed the Saints were beginning to pull away from the hometown boys, Nick Foles completed two of three passes for 43 yards including a 40 yard pass to the DeSean Jackson. LeSean McCoy finished off the drive with a one yard run closing the gap to 20-14 as the third quarter wound down.
After a Saints four and out spanned the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter the Eagles continued to close the gap. They opened the fourth on a seven play 28 yard drive that featured LeSean McCoy involvement in three plays closing the gap to 20-17. As the Saints faithful began to worry Drew Brees threw his teammates on his back completing two of three passes for 48 yards including a 40 yard pass to Robert Meachem. A 35 yard Shayne Graham field goal extended the lead back to six at 23-17.
Down by six Nick Foles started at his own 23 yard line and went three of four including a costly 40 yard defensive pass interference play culminating in a three yard touchdown pass to Zach Ertz. Just like that the Eagles were back on top 24-23 at home but there was plenty of time for Drew Brees, Mark Ingram and the rest of the Saints with 4:54 remaining on the clock.
Alex Henry kicked off to the always dangerous Darren Sproles who returned the kickoff 39 yards. Cary Williams was called for a horse collar tackle adding another 15 yards to the return. Just like that the Saints were at the Eagles 48. This allowed the Saints to run the ball eight times in a 10 play drive draining the clock and the Eagles timeouts. With three seconds left in the game Shayne Graham drilled a 32 yard field through the uprights winning the game for the visiting Saints.
Many experts did not expect to see the Saints go on the road in the cold and defeat the Eagles. But as the cliché says, that why they play the game. Drew Brees wasn’t as stellar as usual but eliminated the turnovers in the second half finishing the game with 250 yards on 20 for 30 with one touchdown and the two first half interceptions. Brees completed passes to nine different receivers. Mark Ingram ran the ball 18 times for 97 yards and a touchdown. In total the Saints rushed the ball 36 times for 185 yards. Graham made all four field goal attempts including a long of 46 yards.
Nick Foles did not disappoint in his first career playoff start throwing for 195 yards finishing the day 23 for 33, two touchdowns and no turnovers. Riley Cooper caught six passes for 68 yards and a touchdown while LeSean McCoy finished with 92 all-purpose yards and a touchdown.
If the Saints can continue this balance next week and continue to run the ball effectively they could challenge on the road. It is the NFL Playoffs so all you have to do is get hot. Just ask last season’s Baltimore Ravens, the New York Giants (twice in recent memory) and the Pittsburgh Steelers. It will happen again and it might just be this iteration of the New Orleans Saints that are the team to do it. Up Next for New Orleans is a trip to the Pacific Northwest as they will face the Seattle Seahawks and their 12th man in the divisional round.
Who will win next weeks Saints vs Seahawks Divisional Round game?
- Saints (56%, 84 Votes)
- Seahawks (44%, 67 Votes)
Total Voters: 151