For the first time in the history of the New Orleans Saints, the black and gold won a road playoff game.
You would figure Sean Payton would be the coach to do so.Payton has rewritten the history of this franchise with two trips to the NFC Championship game during his tenure and a Super Bowl title in 2009. Until Saturday night, even the most successful coach in the team’s history had not won a road playoff game.
The Saints 26-24 win over the Philadelphia Eagles was fueled by the defense. The same defense that set records for the most yardage given up in the history of the NFL in 2012 has been the catalyst for the team this season.
To be honest, the success has been because of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Considering the fact that the Saints lost defensive end/outside linebacker Will Smith, defensive tackle Kenyon Coleman, cornerback Patrick Robinson, middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, outside linebacker Victor Butler, cornerback Jabari Greer and safety Kenny Vaccaro, that the Saints are this far into the playoffs is not surprising, but stunning.
For most of the 26-24 win over the Eagles, the Saints dominated on the defensive side of the ball. Then again another injury occurred when cornerback Keenan Lewis was removed from the game due to a concussion.
Up until that moment, Eagles star wide receiver DeSean Jackson was held to zilch as far as catches and yards were concerned.
Like a shark smelling blood in the water the Eagles went after Lewis’ replacement, Rod Sweeting, and Jackson responded with 3 catches for 53 yards in short order.
However, the most important factor in the Saints win was their ability to slow down the best all-purpose back in the game in LeSean “Shady” McCoy. McCoy rushed the ball for 77 yards on 21 carries and he caught four passes for 15 yards. The Saints also had their best rushing performance of the season, other than running the ball at will against a helpless Dallas defense during the regular season.
No one could have guessed that Saints halfback Mark Ingram would out-duel McCoy, and the former Alabama Heisman Trophy winner rushed for 97 yards on 18 carries and caught three passes for 17 yards.
Running mostly behind the right side of the Saints offensive line, the team finished with 185 yards on 36 carries and averaged 5.1 yards per carry.
The Saints won the battle in the trenches and it was a huge part of them advancing to Seattle.
This was not a game won by Drew Brees and the passing attack. While Brees did throw for 250 yards, he also threw two interceptions and the Saints offense was led by a rushing attack that had struggled for most of the season.New Orleans was also aided by the accurate leg of veteran placekicker Shayne Graham. “Money” Graham hit on all four field goal attempts from 32, 36, 46 and 35 yards.
While we will all thank Garrett Hartley for his contributions to that special Super Bowl year, the decision to release him was the correct one and Graham did his job in getting the team their first postseason road win ever.
Before the season started most “Who Dat Nation” members thought the Saints would be in the playoffs, but no one could have guessed that their first road win ever at playoff time would be fueled by a stingy defense, a rugged ground attack and a kicker named Shayne Graham.
For Payton it was his sixth playoff win during his 8-year run as head coach, but none was sweeter considering the injuries on defense and Payton finally winning a playoff game on the road.
It is now off to Seattle. It will not be an easy place to win. The Seahawks have been 15-1 over the past two regular seasons at home. But remember, the Saints don’t have to beat them three or four times, only once and they get back to the NFC Championship game.
The last trip to Seattle was a disaster from start to finish and the Saints can’t afford to again spot a team two turnovers and expect to win.
This time around the Saints can’t let Russell Wilson be the best player on the field. This coming Saturday that player to put a “W” in the column must be Drew Brees.
Brees has some backing from a very good defense and hopefully a healthy Keenan Lewis.
Home field advantage come playoff time is overrated. This past weekend, the only home team to win was the Indianapolis Colts, and it took a miracle in the second half to lift them past the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Seahawks are a very good football team, and really tough at home, but the Saints only have to beat them once.