The big playoff win was there for the taking by the Eagles. But Rob Ryan's defense played Chip Kelly and QB Nick Foles for chumps, basically luring them into settling for less than was dangled on the poker table.
I know, I'm a little bitter about losing a game we should have won...and I should be happy that the Eagles got this far, etc., etc,...
I apologize for recycling some comments I made in the aftermath of defeat Sunday night. But I stand by them. I'm not happy with the way Chip Kelly managed his offense in this game. And I'm even more perturbed by the Chippah's somewhat nonchalant response to the loss. He seemed okay with it. He seemed pleased with the effort. But it came off to me like a federal government worker in the aftermath of Katrina who might have said "we did the best we could..."
It wasn't good enough for me.
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.
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-seed Seattle next Saturday; they lost there 34-7 in the regular season.
This was not their best offensive game, by far. The Eagles defense scrapped and fought well enough to win most games. But Graham, now with his 10th team after being signed by the Saints just more than two weeks ago to replace longtime kicker Garrett Hartley, also connected from 36, 46 and 35 yards.
"I didn't feel an ounce of fear," the 13-year veteran 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, but they were only 4-5 at home.
"I didn't think winning the division was a surprise to us, and we're disappointed we didn't move forward," Kelly said in a somewhat cocky tone after the game.
Nick Foles hit rookie Zach Ertz for a 3-yard touchdown with 4:54 remaining 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 by Cary Williams (which was probably a good play to prevent a TD) brought New Orleans to the Philadelphia 48. Using mostly runs, the Saints ate up the clock and set up Graham's winner.
"We know what we're all about," Brees said. "This was a great testament to that. Coming on the road, hostile environment, great team, one of the hottest teams in football and getting one of those big victories."
Graham's 46-yarder as the first half ended made it 7-6 as everyone wondered where all the offensive fireworks had gone for both teams. The teams combined for an average of 816.7 yards and 53.5 points per game during the regular season. Man, did that dynamic metric get squashed in this one...
When Riley Cooper, who earlier scored Philadelphia's first touchdown, had a huge drop in the third quarter, the Saints immediately made Philly pay. A 66-yard drive highlighted by Benjamin Watson's 27-yard reception led to Ingram's TD from the 4 for a 20-7 lead.
That's when the Eagles finally made a big play with the ball, DeSean Jackson's leaping 40-yard catch over Corey White. NFL rushing leader LeSean McCoy scored from the 1 on fourth down to make things close.
Jackson helped make it closer with a 29-yard punt return that set up Alex Henery's 31-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, cutting the Saints' lead to 20-17.
Another 40-yard completion, from Brees to seldom-used Robert Meachem, led to Graham's 35-yard field goal, setting up the frantic finish.
Jackson was the central figure in setting up Ertz's go-ahead score, drawing a 40-yard pass interference call on the beleaguered White.
But Brees then guided the winning drive, disappointing Foles, who went to the same Texas high school as Brees and wears the same No. 9.
"This doesn't feel good," said Foles, who led the NFL in passer rating and was 8-3 as a starter. "We wanted to keep playing. It's tough to lose. It hurts. But we're going to keep building."
Brees finished 20 for 30 for 250 yards and was picked off twice in the first half. ... Foles was 23 of 33 for 195 yards. ... Eagles TE Brent Celek injured his neck, but could have returned had the Eagles gotten the ball back late in the fourth quarter. ... New Orleans cornerback Keenan Lewis suffered a head injury in the third quarter and didn't return.
What disturbed me about the Eagles' lackluster results on offfense was Chip Kelly's stubborness and arrogance in the face of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's implied challenge to him to throw the ball deep against the Saints.
Ryan stacked the box against the Eagles running game. LeSean McCoy was continually mauled between the tackles. Kelly had to know that the only way he could eventually unleash McCoy in the run game would be to stretch the Saints' defense with vertical passing attempts. But Kelly kept the leash tight on his quarterback Foles.