Things were a little different when the Eagles traveled to New Orleans for the second time this season, although the stakes were certainly higher.
In the teams previous meeting, Philadelphia had a different starting quarterback — Nick Foles has since taken over for an injured Carson Wentz — and was without running back Darren Sproles, who was sidelined with a hamstring injury. But, the one thing that remained the same was the Saints coming away with a victory.
The 20-14 win for New Orleans over the Eagles sets up an exciting NFC championship game next week. But let’s first take a look at how it got there.
Here are three takeaways from New Orleans’ come-from-behind win over Philadelphia:
The Saints needed to be efficient on offense
New Orleans had a brief lapse in the first quarter before the offense’s efforts turned into points. After Drew Brees’ interception on the first play of the game and consecutive punts on the next two drives, the team finally converted an Eagles’ turnover into a touchdown and set up a successful field-goal try before the half.
The Saints continued rolling, but it wasn’t easy. The go-ahead drive, which was the longest of the team’s season, not only ate up much of the clock but could have easily ended after multiple penalties forced the Saints further away from the end zone. The Saints, however, didn’t back down, especially against a tough defense.
The Eagles entered with a strong defensive front that was gaining momentum towards the end of the regular season and into the playoffs. They nearly double their disruptive pressure from 16.5 percent of passing plays in their first 13 games to 28.4 percent in the last four, according to NFL.com, and improved on their third-down conversion rate, as well.
The most disruptive play Sunday came late in the game to set up Foles on Philadelphia’s final offensive drive. Defensive end Michael Bennett immediately got into the backfield on a third-down play just outside the Eagles’ 30-yard line. This forced a field goal attempt that the Saints missed.
Huge play by Michael Bennett led to that missed FGpic.twitter.com/h8YMNRDHxF
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) January 14, 2019
Unfortunately for Philadelphia, it wouldn’t have mattered anyway as an interception on the ensuing drive sealed New Orleans’ victory.
Drew Brees orchestrated another comeback
The Saints didn’t have much to prove as they entered the game as the No. 1 seed with a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Brees. New Orleans also found success under duress earlier in the season. On two separate occasions — in October versus the Ravens and December against the Buccaneers — the Saints scored 17 fourth-quarter points for a comeback victory.
Despite the Eagles early advantage and a 14-10 halftime lead favoring the visitors, who were 12-0 all-time in playoff games in which they held a 14-point lead at any point, Brees and company made the necessary adjustments to put together two scoring drives that would put the team one win away from a Super Bowl appearance.
First, there was a touchdown pass caught by Michael Thomas, who proved why his nickname is “can’t guard Mike.” The two-time Pro Bowl receiver finished with 171 yards on 12 receptions.
— NFL (@NFL) January 13, 2019
Next was a 39-yard field goal that was set up by a 36-yard run from Mark Ingram, who finished with 53 yards on nine carries.
— NFL (@NFL) January 14, 2019
Brees completed 28 of his 38 pass attempts for 301 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Nick Foles ran out of magic
The backup turned starter has been impressive in his late showing this season. He won all three regular-season games as a starter in December and led the team to an upset victory over the Bears during Wild-Card Weekend.
In the divisional round, he impressed early with two quick scores to become one of three quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era with at least one passing, receiving and rushing touchdown in their playoff careers. But, the Eagles couldn’t sustain their scoring burst.
After opening with 14 points and 169 yards in the first quarter, Philadelphia was held scoreless through the rest of the game. The Saints ate up the clock with an 18-play, 11:29 second-half drive that ended in a touchdown to dethrone the defending Super Bowl champions. Things remained in New Orleans’ favor for the rest of the game.
Philadelphia punted on all but one of their second-half drives and only managed to get two first downs. The final drive, which saw Foles just outside of the red zone, ended in an interception that slipped through the hands of Alshon Jeffery.
— NFL (@NFL) January 14, 2019
Foles finished 18-of-31 passing for 201 yards, one touchdown and one interception.