PHILADELPHIA – You can put a lid on Drew Brees’ reputation for failure outside the Superdome.
The cold, hard fact that the Saints quarterback had never beaten a winning team in a game played in weather under 40 degrees melted here Saturday night in a 26-24 win over the Eagles that sends New Orleans to the Great Northwest and CenturyLink Field on Saturday.
“There is no better place to win a road game than Philadelphia,” said Saints coach Sean Payton.
Presumably he was including Seattle, where the Saints were embarrassed 34-7 on Dec. 2. But that team bore no resemblance to the one that Saturday night possessed the ball for 34:53 and ran it on eight plays out of nine on the winning drive toward Shayne Graham’s 32-yard field goal as time expired.
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As they say in Louisiana, who dat team that outgained the Eagles, winners of seven of their last eight, 434 to 256, in a game that began in 25-degree weather. The Saints, who received 97 rushing yards and a touchdown from Mark Ingram, won the way outdoor teams do and looked like they believed they could do it all along.
“Seattle has a great fan base,” said Ingram. “It gets loud and it gets crazy.
“After that game we lost to them, we were hoping we would see them again.”
When the Eagles rallied from a 20-7 third-quarter deficit to take a 24-23 lead on Zach Ertz’s 3-yard catch from Nick Foles with 4:54 remaining, it looked like the same old ’Aints on the road in January. But with the help of a horsecollar tackle by the Eagles’ Cary Williams, at the end of a 39-yard return by Darren Sproles, the Saints were in business at the Philadelphia 48 with all the time they wanted to not only get the required three points, but also kill the clock on any possible Eagles answer.
Brees twice wedged first downs on third-and-ones as one of the loudest and most profane crowds in the NFL grew more and more silent. Graham kicked it and now the Saints don’t have to hear another word about being left out in the cold if they can’t get the top seed.
“As far as the history, I tell the players ‘you carry your own history,’ ” Payton said. “We understand that stereotype that is carried by teams that play inside; we can’t change it.
“We like the environment we play in. And we traveled pretty well tonight.”
Not so in the first half, when the Saints crossed midfield four times only to settle for a pair of Graham field goals and a 7-6 halftime deficit.
Brees was intercepted twice – one of which the Eagles turned into their only first-half score. The field goals followed a false start by Benjamin Watson on a fourth-and-one at the Eagles 14, and a third-down sack.
But when the Saints got a third-down sack to stymie the first Eagles’ possession of the second half, Brees this time converted, completing a 53-yard drive with a 24-yard TD pass to Lance Moore. On the next possession, the New Orleans went 66 yards in eight plays, capped by a Ingram’s 4-yard TD run.
After the Eagles took a 24-23 lead, the Saints were content to use the clock.
“As much as we hate to talk about it, we put ourselves in that position,” said Brees of losing their previous five road playoff games.
“But it really doesn’t matter what happened last year or before. We put together a team victory tonight. Hopefully, we are peaking at the right time.”