Overcoming a horrid start and a 14-point first-quarter deficit, Drew Brees threw for 301 yards and two touchdowns and lifted the New Orleans Saints to a 20-14 NFC Divisional Playoff victory over the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore intercepted a Nick Foles pass -- which went through the hands of Alshon Jeffery -- at the New Orleans 33 with 1:52 remaining, and running back Alvin Kamara ran for 12 yards on third-and-10 to kill the clock.
The No. 1-seeded Saints (14-3) trailed 14-0 just 10:23 into the game but scored 20 unanswered points to advance to the NFC Championship Game next Sunday afternoon against the Los Angeles Rams at the Superdome. After starting 0 for 3, including an interception on the first play of the game, Brees finished 28 of 38, with scoring passes of 2 yards each to Keith Kirkwood and Michael Thomas. Thomas set a Saints' playoff record with 12 catches for 171 yards. The sixth-seeded Eagles (10-8) played valiantly despite a flurry of injuries. Foles completed 18 of 31 passes for 201 yards, but Philadelphia's offense failed over the final three quarters, amassing just 97 yards after 153 in the first. New Orleans took its first lead of the game, 17-14, by capitalizing on a withering, 18-play, 92-yard drive that consumed 11:29 of the third quarter and netted the Saints nine first downs.
Brees completed 8 of 10 passes for 80 yards on the march, on which the Saints overcame two holding penalties and a false start. One of the holding penalties, on left guard Andrus Peat, nullified a 46-yard scoring pass from Taysom Hill to Kamara. Brees eventually got the touchdown, finding Thomas in man coverage against Cre'Von LeBlanc for a 2-yard score. Wil Lutz extended the Saints' lead to 20-14 with a 39-yard field goal with 10:28 left, but it was still a one-possession game. When Lutz missed a 52-yard field-goal attempt wide right with 2:58 remaining, the Eagles had new life at their own 42, but Jeffery's drop of Foles' pass and Lattimore's interception -- his second of the game -- sealed Philadelphia's fate. The Eagles dominated the first quarter, jumping out to a 14-0 lead and at one point holding a total yardage advantage of 151-0.
However, the Saints got back in the game with 10 consecutive points in the second quarter and trailed only 14-10 at halftime. Foles completed eight of his first nine passes for 113 yards and led Philadelphia to touchdowns on its first two possessions. The first score was set up on the Saints' first play, when Brees badly underthrew Ted Ginn Jr. on a deep route, and LeBlanc intercepted the ball at the Philadelphia 24. Foles completed all five passes for 65 yards on the 76-yard scoring drive, including a 37-yard strike to wide receiver Jordan Matthews, who easily beat double coverage for the touchdown. After New Orleans went three-and-out, Foles directed a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown march, setting up the score with a 30-yard back-shoulder throw on third-and-7 to Jeffery to the Saints' 4. Foles got the 14-0 lead by stretching the ball over the goal line from 1 yard out.
But the Saints finally got rolling in the second quarter, when Brees completed 13 of 16 passes for 171 yards a touchdown. Sean Payton successfully gambled twice on fourth down on the drive -- converting a fourth-and-1 on a fake-punt run by Hill and then converting the touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 2 with Brees' soft pass in the left corner of the end zone to Kirkwood. Lutz brought the Saints within 14-10 with a 45-yard field just before intermission. The drive started at the New Orleans 6 with 78 seconds remaining in the half. The NFC Championship Game is scheduled to kick off at 3:05 p.m. ET next Sunday.
(With inputs from agencies.)