8:10 PM ET, January 4, 2014
Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA
Graham's 32-yard field goal, the fourth of the game for the recent addition to the team, won the wild-card game on the final play, 26-24 over the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday night. Brees, who threw for a touchdown and guided the 34-yard drive to the winning kick, didn't need to be a big star because the Saints' running game and defense -- along with Graham's leg -- provided the heroics.
"It's just, man, believing in each other, ignoring what everyone else has to say," Brees said.
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• Stats & Info: Keys to Saints' victory
New Orleans had been 0-5 in postseason games outside of the Big Easy since entering the league in 1967. The Saints (12-5) will play at NFC top-seed Seattle next Saturday; they lost there 34-7 in the regular season.
"It's loud, it's crazy, they've got a good thing going there," Brees said of the next challenge. "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, what to expect, how to prepare for it.
"But we're going to need our best game, that's for sure."
This was not their best offensive game, by far. But Graham, now with his 10th team after being signed by the Saints just more than two weeks ago to replace longtime kicker Garrett Hartley, also connected from 36, 46 and 35 yards.
"I didn't feel an ounce of fear," the 13-year veteran said. "If I had been here for 14 years or for one game, my job is the same. I feel like I've been adopted into a family."
The Eagles wound up 10-7 in Kelly's first year as coach. He guided them from worst to first in the NFC East, but they were only 4-5 at home.
"I didn't think winning the division was a surprise to us, and we're disappointed we didn't move forward," Kelly said.
Nick Foles hit rookie Zach Ertz for a 3-yard touchdown with 4:54 remaining as Philadelphia rallied from a 13-point deficit to take a one-point lead. But Darren Sproles had a 39-yard kickoff return, and a horse-collar tackle brought New Orleans to the Philadelphia 48. Using mostly runs, the Saints ate up the clock and set up Graham's winner.
"We know what we're all about," Brees said. "This was a great testament to that. Coming on the road, hostile environment, great team, one of the hottest teams in football and getting one of those big victories."
Saints Stay Grounded
The Saints broke stride and leaned on their run game and defense to win. Here's how Saturday's game differed from the team's three previous road playoff games in the Drew Brees era.
|Saturday||1st 3 Games|
|Brees Pass YPG||250||406.7|
Two teams with prolific offenses couldn't get on track for much of the game.
Graham's 46-yarder as the first half ended made it 7-6 as everyone wondered where all the offensive fireworks went. The teams combined for an average of 816.7 yards and 53.5 points per game during the regular season.
When Riley Cooper, who earlier scored Philadelphia's first touchdown, had a huge drop in the third quarter, the Saints immediately made Philly pay. A 66-yard drive highlighted by Benjamin Watson's 27-yard reception led to Ingram's TD from the 4 for a 20-7 lead.
That's when the Eagles finally made a dynamic play with the ball, DeSean Jackson's leaping 40-yard catch over Corey White. NFL rushing leader LeSean McCoy scored from the 1 on fourth down to make things close.
Jackson helped make it closer with a 29-yard punt return that set up Alex Henery's 31-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, cutting the Saints' lead to 20-17.
Another 40-yard completion, from Brees to seldom-used Robert Meachem, led to Graham's 35-yard field goal, setting up the frantic finish.
Jackson was the central figure in setting up Ertz's go-ahead score, drawing a 40-yard pass interference call on the beleaguered White.
But Brees then guided the winning drive, disappointing Foles, who went to the same Texas high school as Brees and wears the same No. 9.
"This doesn't feel good," said Foles, who led the NFL in passer rating and was 8-3 as a starter. "We wanted to keep playing. It's tough to lose. It hurts. But we're going to keep building."
Meanwhile, the Saints move on with confidence in a defense that held the NFL's top rushing offense to 80 yards -- McCoy had just 77 -- and their own ground game, which gained 185 without injured Pierre Thomas.
"Just the fact they had confidence in me to carry the load, it says a lot," Ingram said. "People are going to talk, you'll always have critics, have doubters. But my teammates know I go out there and bust my tail every day and that's all that matters."
Brees finished 20 for 30 for 250 yards and was picked off twice in the first half. ... Foles was 23 of 33 for 195 yards. ... Eagles TE Brent Celek injured his neck, but could have returned had the Eagles gotten the ball back late in the fourth quarter. ... New Orleans cornerback Keenan Lewis suffered a head injury in the third quarter and didn't return.
PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 04: Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints throws a pass in the first quarter against...(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Team Stat Comparison
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
|Yards per play||6.4||4.5|
Yards per pass
Yards per rush
|Red Zone (Made-Att)||1-4||2-5|
|Defensive / Special Teams TDs||0||0|
|No Scoring Summary available|
- The Saints held the Eagles to one play of 25 yards or more, tied for the fewest by the Eagles in a game this season. The Eagles led the NFL with 62 such plays during the regular season. - The Saints gained 14 first downs by rushing and 11 by passing Saturday. This was the first time the Saints gained more first downs by rushing than passing since Week 6 of 2010 against the Buccaneers.
The Saints won their first playoff game on the road in franchise history, overcoming cold temperatures behind an improved defense and running. They lost each of their previous 3 road playoff games with Drew Brees despite him averaging over 400 passing yards per game. They allowed over 35 points in each of those losses.[+]
Saints on Road in Playoffs With Drew Brees
The Saints defense held LeSean McCoy to 2.9 yards per rush between the tackles, his second-lowest average this season and the lowest allowed by the Saints. The Eagles lost all three games this season when McCoy averaged 3.0 yards per rush or fewer between the tackles. --The Eagles ran for 65 yards on 15 rushes when using the zone read (4.3 yards per rush), and were held to 15 yards on seven rushes without it (2.1 yards per rush). During the regular season, the Eagles averaged 5.7 yards per rush when using the zone compared with 4.3 yards per rush when not.[+]
LeSean McCoy Rushing Between the Tackles, This Season
Drew Brees completed 50% of his passes and threw two interceptions against four or fewer pass rushers in the first half. Brees did not throw an incompletion against standard pressure in the second half. --The Eagles sent a three-man pass rush on 15 of Brees' 33 dropbacks Saturday, the most such dropbacks any quarterback has had in a single game this season. --Brees completed 1-of-4 passes for 11 yards and an interception on play action in the first half. He completed 4-of-5 such passes for 100 yards in the second half, including his 24-yard touchdown pass to Lance Moore.[+]
Drew Brees Passing vs 4 or Fewer Pass Rushers, Saturday
Mark Ingram ran for 97 yards Saturday against the Eagles, the second-most in his career (including playoffs). Ingram ran for 73 yards on designed rushes to the right, including his 4-yard touchdown in the third quarter.[+]
Mark Ingram Rushing by Direction, Saturday
Drew Brees struggled to get the Saints' offense going in the first half Saturday, compiling a career playoff-low 98 pass yards and throwing two interceptions.[+]
Drew Brees vs Eagles
Drew Brees: team has last all 3 previous playoff games in which he has thrown an interception
The Saints and Eagles face off in a NFC Wild Card matchup. It will feature starting QBs Drew Brees and Nick Foles. Both Brees and Foles played for and graduated from Westlake High School in Texas. According to Elias, the only previous playoff matchup which featured opposing starting quarterbacks from the same high school took place in 1974 when Terry Bradshaw (Steelers) and Joe Ferguson (Bills) faced off in a 1974 Divisional Playoff. Both went to Woodlawn High School in Shreveport, Louisiana. Bradshaw and the Steelers were victorious. Note - Both Mark Sanchez and Carson Palmer attended Santa Margarita Catholic in California. However, Sanchez transferred to Mission Viejo prior to his junior season. Sanchez (Jets) defeated Palmer (Bengals) in the 2009 AFC Wild Card Playoffs.
From Elias: Drew Brees completed a pass to 11 different receivers in Sunday's win over the Buccaneers. According to Elias, that matches the season-high for completions to different receivers in a game. He did it one other time in Week 11 against the 49ers.[+]
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