Posted January 05, 2014

First Down/Fourth Down: Saints prove just good enough to end road playoff drought

First Down/Fourth Down, New Orleans Saints, NFC East, NFC South, NFL Playoffs, Philadelphia Eagles
Jimmy Graham (left) and Mark Ingram celebrate a key score.

Jimmy Graham (left) and Mark Ingram celebrate a key score. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The New Orleans Saints have been in existence since 1967. They’ve done a lot of great things during that time, especially in the Sean Peyton era, but they’d never won a road playoff game in five tries. That changed Saturday night, when Payton’s team outlasted the Philadelphia Eagles in a 26-24 game that turned from defensive stalemate to shot-play duel as the first half moved to the second. It was a 7-6 game in Philly’s favor at the half, but two of the most explosive offenses in the NFL came alive and fought right up to the end, with Shayne Graham’s 32-yard field goal deciding it as time expired.

“Honestly, nothing but confidence,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees told NBC’s Michele Tafoya about his team’s mindset. “We know what type of team we are, we know how good we can be — it’s just a matter of putting it all together. We had a great week of prep, and a lot of it’s just believing in each other. Ignoring what everyone else has to say; everyone’s going to have an opinion. But we know what we’re all about, and this was a great testament to that.”

Here were some of the highlights from the Saints’ improbable win at Lincoln Financial Field.

• First Down: Rob Ryan’s defense keeps it real … for the most part.

Philly quarterback Nick Foles has been on fire for most of the season, but Foles and the rest of Philadelphia’s offense found it tough sledding against Rob Ryan’s bunch — especially in the first half. Foles threw for just 98 yards in the first 30 minutes, LeSean McCoy was limited to 32 yards on 10 carries and DeSean Jackson was targeted just once and held without a reception. Of course, that worm would turn as soon as the Saints suffered a key injury (more on that below).

• Fourth Down: New Orleans’ backup defensive backs reveal a major flaw.

When cornerback Keenan Lewis was forced from the game with a concussion, Foles knew exactly who and where to target. Already without cornerback Jabari Greer and safety Kenny Vacarro, New Orleans’ secondary looked more vulnerable without Lewis than at any other time during Ryan’s one-year tenure with the team. Foles found cornerbacks Corey White and Rod Sweeting to be particularly easy marks, and while he threw for just 195 yards in the game, the pass interference call on White with 5:47 left in the game on a long pass to Jackson gave the Eagles 40 bonus yards and set Foles up to throw the touchdown pass to tight end Zach Ertz that gave Philly a late lead.

• First Down: Mark Ingram’s big breakout.

In his third season with the Saints, the former first-round running back from Alabama has mostly been a disappointment, rushing for over 100 yards in a game just once in his career. Ingram didn’t bust the century mark in this game, but he came close enough with 97 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Ingram ran tough, helping Brees maintain drives in the second half when that was desperately needed. Add in contributions by Khiry Robinson and Darren Sproles, and New Orleans’ 185 rushing yards to Philly’s 80 was a key differential in a game this close.

• Fourth Down: Philly’s inability to take advantage of early mistakes.

When Brees throws two picks and amasses just 98 yards in a first half and you’re the opposing team, that means that you’ve been given a tremendous gift from the gods. The Eagles were not able to take advantage, and they gave up big plays to Brees in the second half when the Saints offense came around. New Orleans held the ball for just under nine minutes in each of the final two quarters, and both of their third-quarter drives ended in touchdowns. Even after a three-and-out in their first drive of the fourth quarter, the Saints managed the two final field goals that has them advancing in the NFC postseason to face Seattle.

• First Down: Chip Kelly’s worst-to-first turnaround.

That said, it’s fairly amazing what Eagles head coach Chip Kelly did in his first year in the NFL. Not only did he redefine the offense to his own preferences, but also he benefitted from a defense run by Billy Davis that got a great deal better in the second half of the season. Kelly helped turn Foles into one of the game’s most efficient quarterbacks in the league in Foles’ second season, and he balanced the run and pass as effectively as anyone possibly could. It’s a disappointing end to the season for the Eagles and their fans, but the 10-7 mark in 2013 is a radical improvement over 2012′s 4-12 mark, and this team looks poised to be fierce in 2014 if it can maintain what it has and add a few key pieces.

• Fourth Down: New Orleans’ next stop.

The Saints’ “reward” for their historic playoff win is a return trip to Seattle’s CenturyLink field, where they were beaten 34-7 on Dec. 2. Brees was limited to 147 passing yards that day, as Seattle’s opportunistic defense limited his options downfield all night — he was 0-for-8 on passes over 15 yards.

“It’s loud, and it’s crazy,” Brees told Tafoya of his return trip destination. “They’ve got a good thing going, obviously — they’ve only lost one game there in the last two years. But having been there less than a month ago, I think that serves us well. Just knowing what to expect, how to prepare for it … but we’re going to need our best game, that’s for sure.”

23 comments
inthepresent
inthepresent


on that TD pass to cooper, he may have had enough time to sit down for a glass of wine and some coltrane. jesus... 

desean jackson is a punk. 

inthepresent
inthepresent

the eagles got the cowboys. now the saints get the eagles. 

as a new york football giants fan, i'm loving this. 

psychsports
psychsports

Sean Payton and crew outfoxed Kelly no one gave the Saints a chance that is why they play the games.

Read more…..

-http://psychologyofsports.com/2014/01/05/saints-eagles-brees-payton-and-ryan-sink-eagles-updated-picks/

bobinpowell
bobinpowell

Gee, you're missing 3 defensive backs and those pressed into action might have flaws.  What you don't stockpile a bunch of all-pro backups?

mackeson71
mackeson71

Philly fans are a pathetic bunch.  Booing injured players....what a sorry excuse for human beings.  They certainly lived up to their reputation last night.

Ralph11
Ralph11

I am a Philly Phan and it's nice to see that the fans in NO are just as arrogant as they say the Eagles

Phans are. I give the Saints praise for winning the game but if not for that horse collar the end result

might have been different. 

btcvsolo
btcvsolo

Based on the dull crowd (why -exactly- are Philly fans considered the most passionate?) who didn't see this one coming?


Saints can be giddy for another week. They won't have it so easy anywhere else on the road; especially Seattle...

rentistoohigh
rentistoohigh

Philly ...you're like Mega Maid......you went from suck to blow

ElvisHitler
ElvisHitler

Better team won, Brees is just a beast and may be the GOAT.


Without a doubt Brees > Rodgers

RobertJacke
RobertJacke

Guess the Saints can win on the road in cold weather also in a outside stadium

EasyGoer
EasyGoer

Philly pholded at home just as I knew they would. Great to see! No Cowboys, Skins or Eagles. Makes me feel better about the Giants' disappointing season. Now, hopefully NE will lose and all will be well.

DODGERFAIL2013
DODGERFAIL2013

NFC East is and was a joke all year long.


the joke is on loser philly fans.  LOL!

BeauBradshaw
BeauBradshaw

@Ralph11 

As a Saints fan I wouldn't call Philadelphia fans arrogant. Arrogant isn't the right word. More fitting words may include, rude, abrasive, hostile, or volatile. And that is not me or the opinion of the Saints fan base as you have stated, it is a proven fact with a documented history.


The fact that y'alls behavior at Eagles games was so out of control that they had a court room and jail installed in Veterans Stadium is a disgrace.


Phillies and Eagles fans throwing D batteries at events is another pathetic showing.


When Michael Irving layed motionless on the field after suffering a career ending injury the Eagles fans erupted in cheers and jubilation. That's sick.


Nothing about these acts qualify as passionate in the normal sense of the word. A more apt word to describe these actions of the fans is deranged, troubled or just plain sick.  

JuanH
JuanH

@btcvsolo Philly fans aren't the most passionate. They're just the trashiest.

Ralph11
Ralph11

@btcvsolo 

Philly Phans ae the most passionate Phans in the NFL, you know it and you just want to

talk trash. The Saints won and you can gloat all you want, if the Eagles won we would

be gloating also. But don't think that a crowd being quiet when their team is losing is a sign

of not being passionate. Do you cheer when the Saints are losing, i think not. Go ahead and

gloat all you want, your team did win. As a Eagles Phan, i must say i don't think the Saints

are the best team in the playoffs but if they won the SB it wouldn't bother me. I don't know

much about the Saints but i do know they have a super QB that is capable of putting the

Saints on his back and taking them to the promise land. Good luck ole buddy from a very

PASSIONATE Phila Eagles Phan.

inthepresent
inthepresent

@ElvisHitler it's sunday morning. you have a pass. otherwise, that might be the dumbest comment of the week. and it's only sunday. 

riley8
riley8

@ElvisHitler I am a Saints fan.  While Brees may be in the argument I have a feeling Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, John Elway, and Johnny U may have the upper hand on most lists.

btcvsolo
btcvsolo

@DODGERFAIL2013 Let me guess...Philly fans cheered when Andy Reid's team lost earlier in the afternoon? Karma....

BeauBradshaw
BeauBradshaw

@Ralph11 @btcvsolo 

theres a line the separates passion as a fan and a fan base who is just plain abrasive and rude. 


When a fan spits in the face of a fan from the opposing team that's not an act of passion. It's just a plain trash move. Fans throwing batteries at the visiting team as they run out onto the field before the game is not an act of passion. booing injured players from the other teams again is just plain rude and not an act of passion. If these deplorable acts are what you define as passion, there lies the problem.


There are plenty of ways to show pride, loyalty and passion toward your hometown team that don't involve hurting opposing fans or players. I am a Saints season ticket holder and have never seen fans booing injured players, throwing batteries, etc... yet the Superdome is known as one of the most passionate and toughest places to play even with out bush league moves such as the above.


I have never heard of a stadium having to have undercover police officers wearing the visiting teams jerseys because of the fact that the expect the environment to be that hostile.