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(Saturday, January 4th)
Final Score: New Orleans 26, Philadelphia 24
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The New Orleans Saints turned to their run game and drastically improved defense in frigid Philadelphia and ended their road hex in the playoffs.
It won't get easier next week in rowdy Seattle.
Shayne Graham nailed a game-winning 32-yard field goal as time expired and the Saints defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 26-24 in the NFC Wild Card Round on Saturday night.
After Eagles quarterback Nick Foles flipped a go-ahead 3-yard touchdown pass to Zach Ertz with 4:54 left, Drew Brees converted two key third downs with a pair of quarterback sneaks on the ensuing Saints possession.
Graham, who replaced Garrett Hartley last month, then kicked New Orleans to its first road playoff win in six tries since coming into the NFL in 1967.
"I felt comfortable and confident and luckily got bombarded on the field after the play and it was a great feeling," Graham said.
The sixth-seeded Saints moved on to face the top-seeded Seahawks next Saturday afternoon in Seattle, where they lost 34-7 in Week 13.
In January 2011, the reigning Super Bowl champion Saints lost 41-36 to a 7-9 Seahawks team in Seattle in the Wild Card round.
"It's loud, it's crazy, they've got a good thing going there," Brees said. "We're going to need our best game, that's for sure."
New Orleans, which was without Pierre Thomas, totaled 185 yards rushing on 36 carries, while its defense limited Chip Kelly's high-powered offense to just 256 yards. The NFC East-champion Eagles averaged 417.3 yards per game during the regular season.
"Defense played fantastic all game long," Brees said.
Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan patched up and improved New Orleans' porous defense, which became the first team in NFL history to allow over 7,000 yards of offense a year ago, after being brought in when Dallas fired him following the 2012 season. The Saints finished 2013 fourth in yards given up with 4,891.
"He had a really good game plan," Kelly said of Ryan.
Brees was 20-of-30 for 250 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, while Mark Ingram carried the ball 18 times for 97 yards and a touchdown.
Foles completed 23-of-33 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns and LeSean McCoy ran for 77 yards and a score, but averaged just 3.7 yards on 21 carries.
"It's tough to lose. It hurts. But we're going to keep building," Foles said.
Ingram's 4-yard TD plunge staked New Orleans a 20-7 lead with 3:54 left in the third quarter, but the Eagles tallied the next 10 points to whittle the deficit to 20-17.
DeSean Jackson made his first catch of the game, a 40-yard reception down to the Saints' 9, at the 3:06 mark of the third. He ran an out-and-up against cornerback Corey White, who came into the contest after Keenan Lewis was injured the play prior, and boxed him out to haul in the underthrown pass.
McCoy darted through the right side of the line for a 1-yard score four plays later on fourth-and-goal.
A holding penalty led to a Saints three-and-out on their next touch, and Alex Henery's 31-yard field goal pulled the Eagles within three with 11:14 left.
Graham then split the uprights from 35 yards out before Ertz's TD catch capped an 8-play, 77-yard march. A 40-yard pass interference call on White led to the score.
Earlier, Graham's 36-yard field goal midway through the second quarter opened the scoring.
Prior to that, the first miscue of the game came late in the first quarter when Brees lofted a pass too far of Kenny Stills running down the right sideline and Eagles cornerback Bradley Fletcher hauled in the overthrow.
The Eagles, though, were unable to come away with points.
Henery hooked a 48-yard field goal to the left two plays after Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton sniffed out Brent Celek on a tight-end screen for an eight-yard loss and defensive end Cameron Jordan sacked Foles for an 11-yard loss.
Philadelphia took advantage of Brees' second interception, however.
After Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans returned Brees' pass intended for Lance Moore 23 yards to the New Orleans 44, Foles found Riley Cooper in the back of the end zone for a 10-yard score to finish off a 6-play, 44-yard trek.
Graham booted through a 46-yard field goal on the final play of the half to get the Saints within 7-6 heading into the break.
Philadelphia went three-and-out on its first touch of the second half and Brees completed a 6-play, 53-yard sequence with a 24-yard TD pass to Moore to give New Orleans a 13-7 cushion.
The Eagles recorded four three-and-outs on their first seven possessions of the game.
New Orleans was 7-of-13 on third down, while Philadelphia finished 3-of-12 ... The Saints averaged 6.4 yards per carry ... New Orleans controlled the ball for 34:53.
01/05 03:27:15 ET
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