Saints Clip the Eagles' Wings
With the temperatures in the 20s, I didn't expect the Saints to squeak this one out.
With a prolific running attack and home-field advantage, I felt that everything was aligned for the Philadelphia Eagles to be victorious in the NFC Wild Card playoff.
Instead, when all was said and done, it was Shayne Graham's 32-yard field goal that sent the Eagles packing. A journeyman who was recently picked up by the Saints during the final stages of the regular season, Graham was sensational with a four-for-four field-goal performance, including the pressure-filled 32-yarder as time expired to seal a 26-24 victory.
The first half was a defensive battle. No team could really establish anything offensively. The Eagles, coming into the game as the best rushing team in the league, not only couldn't establish the run game throughout the first half, they couldn't get it going throughout the entire game. LeSean McCoy was, frankly, a non-factor despite his one rushing touchdown. The Saints' front seven made McCoy a focal point and contained him for the majority of his carries.
Philadelphia's defense picked off Drew Brees twice and managed to stay competitive against the likes of Jimmy Graham, Lance Moore, and Marques Colston. However, despite only scoring six points in the first half, you could tell that the Saints had started to develop an effective running attack with the two-headed monster of Khiry Robinson and Mark Ingram. That effectiveness would carry over into the second half.
So it was the New Orlean Saints who possessed the more lethal running attack. Ingram scored his first career playoff touchdown with a four-yard run in the second half, as he and Robinson averaged over five yards per attempt throughout the game. In fact, the combination of Robinson and Ingram was clicking so well that it allowed the Saints to possess the ball for almost 35 minutes, which ultimately cost the Eagles the game.
While Philadelphia did gain a late one-point lead with a Nick Foles-to-Zack Ertz touchdown pass, the Eagles' defense couldn't stop the Saints on their game-winning drive. Brees and company easily moved down the field, spearheaded by Ingram and Robinson as they chomped clock and positioned themselves for Graham's game-winner.
New Orleans finally won a playoff game in a cold-temperature venue. Although it wasn't pretty, a win is a win and the Saints defense showed some chutzpah that I didn't think they had. They completely stymied one of the best offenses in the NFL and took away, arguably, one of the best players in the league this year, LeSean McCoy. They also limited Mr Big Play, DeSean Jackson, to three catches and essentially rendered him ineffective for most of the game.
The Saints now move on to play Seattle in the Pacific Northwest, where they lost, 34-7, earlier this season.