The New Orleans Saints and the Philadelphia Eagles went back and forth for most of Saturday's wild card matchup. New Orleans, trailing by one, kicked a last-minute field goal at the end of a methodical clock-killing drive to secure a 26-24 victory, the franchise's first road win in the playoffs.
It was a rough first half for Drew Brees. He completed just 10 passes in the first half, for 98 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. He frequently targeted tight end Jimmy Graham and was rewarded with 44 yards on three catches, but Graham was double-covered most of the night, forcing Brees to look elsewhere.
Brees recovered with a six-play, 53-yard drive in the third quarter, that ended with a touchdown to wide receiver Lance Moore for 24 yards. That put the game at 13-7 in favor of the Saints.
A huge reception to DeSean Jackson later in the third quarter put the Eagles in position to score and bring the game within six points. Jackson caught a 40-yard pass to set the Eagles up in New Orleans territory, and McCoy ran it in for a 1-yard touchdown. The next time Philadelphia got the ball, they targeted Saints backup CB Rod Sweeting, and drove down the field to kick a field goal and bring the game within three points. A Saints field goal made it six points again, but a huge pass interference call allowed the Eagles to take a 24-23 lead.
But the Saints had plenty of time left to march back down the field and bury months of talk about their road worthiness.James Brady
On a third-and-one with two minutes to go, the Saints made the decision to go for the quarterback sneak. It was the second time they went for that play in the game. (The first one was wiped out due to a false start penalty). Brees isn't the biggest or most athletic quarterback, but he pushed through the pile and kept his legs churning like a running back, and got the first down and keep the drive alive.
That's a very, very gutsy call for Sean Payton to make, especially with Mark Ingram running so well. Of course, Payton did it again on the very same drive, with Brees successfully running the sneak on a third-and-one to bring the clock down to just under 30 seconds.
"There's no better place to win a road game."
-- Sean Payton
The Saints are the sixth seed in the NFC, so they'll hit the road to take on the top-seeded Seattle Seahawks and possibly the most intimidating team in the playoffs. This was a big win for New Orleans, especially given that it was on the road. Questions about the Saints' play on the road won't go away quietly, with memories of a 34-7 loss in Seattle in Week 13 still lingering.