Saints Top Eagles On Final Kick To Win First Playoff Road Game
by Justin Henry
Cold Hard Football Facts' Dr. Death (@jrhwriting)
Despite throwing two first-half interceptions, and looking uncharacteristically dull, Drew Brees managed to lead his New Orleans Saints to 20 points in the second half, winning 26-24 over the Eagles to end Wild Card Saturday. The deciding play was a 32-yard kick from Shayne Graham as time expired, with New Orleans milking the remnants of the clock.
The Eagles, for their part, played a spotty game, and largely stayed alive on the picks from DeMeco Ryans and Bradley Fletcher. In all, the lead changed four times, and the Eagles regained the lead on a Zach Ertz touchdown pass with a little under five minutes remaining. The Saints used every remaining second, however, before connecting on Graham's boot.
1. Brees Played Bolder than Foles
Yes, Drew Brees threw two interceptions, and Foles and teammates alike went without turning the ball over once, but it wasn't enough. While Brees' first-half was marred by mistakes and a couple of costly false starts on fourth down attempts, he made up for it with more certain play the rest of the way, capitalizing on the Eagles' slow second-half start.
For the game, Brees averaged a highly efficient 7.78 Real Passing Yards Per Attempt, and a healthy 12.5 yards a completion. Nick Foles, on the other hand, averaged a shaky 5.03 RPYPA, thanks to two big sacks, and a mere 8.5 yards per completion. It wasn't until Keenan Lewis went out of the game did Foles begin bombing deep to the likes of DeSean Jackson.
2. Saints Offense a Little More Efficient, Despite Picks
The New Orleans defense found a good antidote to the Eagles' acidic offense, simply by shutting down LeSean McCoy. The NFL Rushing Champion was held to 77 yards on 21 carries (3.67 YPA), though he did score a key touchdown late in the third. Combined with a short Foles run, the Eagles' No. 1 rushing offense could only muster 3.64 YPA.
New Orleans, even without Pierre Thomas, racked up 185 yards on 36 carries (5.14 YPA), led by Mark Ingram (18 carries, 97 yards) and Khiry Robinson (eight carries, 45 yards). New Orleans also converted seven of 13 third downs, against the Eagles' paltry three of 12, although Philly's lone consolation was going two for two on fourth down.
3. Saints Gave Themselves Chances
Back to the earlier point of Brees' two picks being ultimately irrelevant (even if the Eagles did score a touchdown off the second one), it's because New Orleans killed in total yards gained. The Saints won the night 434 to 256, averaging 6.38 yards per play. The Eagles averaged a mere 4.49 yards a play, also losing to the Saints in plays run, 68 to 57.
By converting seven of 13 money downs (53.85%), the Saints were able to sustain those drives, particularly in the second half when they built a 13 point lead. On third and fourth down combined, the Eagles went five of 14 (35.71%) and ended up punting five times to New Orleans' three. The scoring barrage didn't begin until the Birds were well-behind.
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