In the 2000s decade and in this current decade, the New Orleans Saints have been documented as early exits when it comes to road playoff games. Well at least for this week they ditched that label, as they sent the Philadelphia Eagles home with a 26-24 victory courtesy of a 32 yard game-winning field goal by Shayne Graham.
Next up for the Saints is an intimidating road playoff joust with the Seattle Seahawks, who are the favorites to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Drew Brees (20 of 30 for 250 yards, 1 touchdown pass and 2 interceptions) didn’t exactly have one of his better games. But he was efficient enough to aggravate an Eagles defense that provided solid pressure on him (he was sacked 2 times) and his receivers (none of the Saints receivers got anywhere near 100 yards). Plus the Eagles defense made sure that every Saints ball carrier earned every yard.
On the Saints ensuing drive and on 4th and 6 from the PHI 18, they sent in the reliable Graham—who came through with his first of four successful field goals on the night—with him connecting from 36 yards out to give New Orleans a 3-0 lead with 8:37 left in the second quarter.
Much later in the second quarter, Saints receiver Marques Colston caught his first pass of the night (which went for 10 yards) on the first play of the second to last drive of the first half for the Saints. But this drive ended when Brees threw an interception to Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who caught the theft at the PHI 33 and then ambled 23 yards to the NO 44. Ryans’ theft led to a Riley Cooper (6 catches for 68 yards and 1 score) 14 yard leaping and near the back of the end zone touchdown reception that gave Philly a 7-3 lead with 1:48 left in the first half.
But the Saints cut back into the Eagles lead with another Graham field goal that was aided by a holding call on Eagles defensive lineman Fletcher Cox, when he [Cox] held then tackled running back Darren Sproles earlier in the drive. Graham’s successful 46 yard field goal put the score at 7-6 going into halftime.
The Saints scored their first touchdown of the night when Brees at the end of a 7 play 53 yard drive, threw an across his body 24 yard touchdown pass to receiver Lance Moore who caught the pass and then ran up field and then finally into the end zone to give his team a 13-7 lead with 10:08 left in the third quarter.
On the Saints’ next scoring drive, a Benjamin Watson left sideline 27 yard reception to the PHI 27, a Mark Ingram (18 carries for 97 yards and 1 score) body contorting and sideline dodging 10 yard run to the PHI 17, and then a shake and bake Sproles run to the PHI 8 keyed the drive. Those three big plays set up a determined 4 yard run up the middle into the end zone by Ingram which gave the Eagles a 20-7 lead with 3:54 left in the third quarter.
Receiver Desean Jackson (3 catches for 53 yards) made one of the plays of the game when he sped along the right sideline and leaped and then caught a Foles pass versus close coverage from number two left cornerback Corey White, with the receiver then falling on his back at the NO 9 for a 40 yard completion. That huge play set up a McCoy 1 yard touchdown run to make the score 20-14 Saints with just 32 seconds left in the third quarter.
Just when it appeared the Saints were headed for a 10 point lead after a deep down the field completion to receiver Robert Meachem who was then tackled at the PHI 23, all the Saints ended up getting out of the drive was a 35 yard field goal by Graham which put the score at 23-17 with 8:04 left in the game.
Later, a pass interference penalty/spot foul on White versus Jackson put the ball at the NO 3. That penalty led to a cool zone read by Foles who then threw a 3 yard touchdown pass to tight end Zach Ertz for the Eagles’ first lead (since early in the 3rd quarter) at 24-23 with 4:54 left in the game.
On the ensuing drive, head coach Sean Payton and the Saints offense put together a time consuming (the drive snatched 4:54 seconds off the game clock) final drive for both teams that led to Graham’s game-winning field goal.
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