PHILADELPHIA – After erasing nearly a half-century of road playoff frustration, a trip to Seattle shouldn’t be intimidating for Drew Brees, Shayne Graham and the New Orleans Saints.
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.
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-seeded 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 over two weeks ago to replace long-time kicker Garrett Hartley, also connected from 36, 46 and 35 yards.
“I didn’t feel an ounce of fear,” the 13-year vet 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.”
Brees threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Lance Moore, Mark Ingram rushed for 97 yards and another score, and the Saints’ defense slowed Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense just enough.
The Eagles wound up 10-7 in Kelly’s first year as coach. He guided them from worst to first in the NFC East.
Nick Foles hit rookie Zach Ertz for a 3-yard TD with 4:54 left 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 clock and set up Graham.