Saints over­come rough start to rally past Ea­gles

Edmonton Journal - - SPORTS - DON BREN­NAN New Or­leans dbren­[email protected]­

What can now be re­mem­bered as a vic­tory dance was per­formed late in the very lop­sided third quar­ter by two New Or­leans Saints big men — de­fen­sive end Cameron Jor­dan and line­backer De­mario Davis.

They had just wit­nessed some­thing very spe­cial when, stand­ing on the side­lines, Choppa Style blared over the sound sys­tem at Mercedes-Benz Su­per­dome.

They could not con­tain their ex­cite­ment.

As the jum­botron fo­cused on first Jor­dan, then Davis, shakin’ and gy­ratin’, 73,027 fans went ab­so­lutely bonkers.

“Oh man, there’s noth­ing like the Dome, man,” Davis said later.

“We’ve got the most elec­tric crowd in the NFL. Choppa Style, that’s our theme song right now. When that comes on, the crowd, they feed off it, so we feed off of it. It’s kind of like we’re do­ing our thing in that mo­ment. We’re in our el­e­ment.”

Do­ing his thing to set off the party was Drew Brees, the fu­ture Hall of Fame quar­ter­back who turns 40 on Tues­day.

Af­ter a start in which just about ev­ery­thing that could go wrong did, the Saints scratched and clawed their way back into the NFC divisional round play­off against the de­fend­ing cham­pion Philadel­phia Ea­gles.

And when Brees was given the ball in the third quar­ter, he didn’t give it back un­til the Saints fi­nally had the lead, af­ter he com­bined with Michael Thomas on a two-yard scor­ing toss.

“I think the turn­ing point was re­ally that 23-play drive that lasted 111/2 min­utes, that kind of took us from our own eight-yard line to get a touch­down,” said Brees, be­fore chuck­ling. “I was just told that we ac­tu­ally gained 117 yards on that drive ... I won­der if that’s a record ... be­cause of the penal­ties that kept set­ting us back. But yeah, we went on a 117-yard drive in the third quar­ter to take the lead and then didn’t re­ally look back.”

The re­sult, a 20-14 win, ends a 4-0 play­off run by Ea­gles quar­ter­back Nick Foles and coach Doug Ped­er­son that in­cluded last year’s Su­per Bowl vic­tory over the New Eng­land Patriots.

It also crushed the Ea­gles’ at­tempt to be the first team to suc­cess­fully de­fend their crown since the 2004 Patriots.

The Saints will now host the Los An­ge­les Rams in the NFC cham­pi­onship game Sun­day.

The de­fen­sive hero of the day was Saints cor­ner­back Marshon Lat­ti­more, whose se­cond in­ter­cep­tion, near the New Or­leans’ 30-yard line with just un­der two min­utes left killed any chance of an Ea­gles come­back.

Un­til then, Ped­er­son be­lieved the Ea­gles would pre­vail.

“I thought that we were on our way,” he said. “We got back (in it). It just felt like the mo­men­tum at that point was in our favour.”

Lat­ti­more gave the Saints their first breath of life with his ear­lier pick. With a 14-0 lead in the se­cond quar­ter, the Ea­gles be­came a lit­tle too ag­gres­sive.

Try­ing to hit Zach Ertz with a deep ball down the left side­line, Lat­ti­more jumped up and grabbed the Foles pass.

That turned out to be the re­al­ity check the Saints needed.

Orig­i­nally get­ting nowhere with the en­su­ing drive, Saints coach Sean Pay­ton called a di­rect snap fake from punt for­ma­tion.

Backup quar­ter­back Taysom Hill gained the first down.

With mo­men­tum gath­er­ing, the Saints marched all the way to the Ea­gles’ two be­fore the drive stalled. Pay­ton gam­bled again on fourth down, this time re­sult­ing in a short touch­down toss to Keith Kirk­wood.

Fi­nally, the home team was on the board. And the crowd re­sponded ac­cord­ingly.

“I saw the (sound) me­ter get to 128, 130. I have never seen it that high,” said run­ning back Mark In­gram, an eight-year vet­eran with the Saints.

“They (the fans) brought it, and we are go­ing to need it all the way through the play­offs.”

And while the New Or­leans of­fence was get­ting its act to­gether, the de­fence tight­ened up.

“They had us reel­ing early on,” said Davis. “We stayed true to our goals. We were able to stop the run, get a lit­tle pres­sure on the quar­ter­back ... those two take-aways by Marshon were huge. They were game-chang­ing. It was the trump card.”

Said Brees: “We found a bunch of ways to win dur­ing the sea­son. Many of (those wins) came down to third quar­ter, fourth quar­ter, se­cond half-type come­backs, where it took ev­ery­body. But they were all great team vic­to­ries. Looks like that’s car­ry­ing over in the play­offs.”


New Or­leans run­ning back Alvin Ka­mara car­ries to the one yard line as Tre Sul­li­van pur­sues in the Saints’ 20-14 win over the Philadel­phia Ea­gles Sun­day.

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