Saints rally into NFC’s title game
NEW ORLEANS — When the New Orleans Saints finally found their rhythm, they marched one step closer to the Super Bowl.
Using a dominant ballcontrol offense and a few gambles that paid off, the Saints got two touchdown passes from Drew Brees and two interceptions from Marcus Lattimore in a 20-14 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.
Brees took the Saints on scoring drives of 92, 79 and 67 yards after falling behind 14-0. Lattimore clinched it when Nick Foles’ pass from the Saints 27 deflected off usually surehanded receiver Alshon Jeffery with about two minutes remaining. A couple dozen Saints players surged off the sideline toward the end zone in celebration, while Jeffery fell face-first to the turf in agony.
New Orleans (14-3) will host the NFC title game next week against the Rams (13-4). Los Angeles, which fell 45-35 at the Superdome in November, will try again next week, with the winner going to the Super Bowl. The Saints’ win finished off a sweep of the divisional round by teams coming off byes.
Wil Lutz added two field goals for the Saints, who last got this far in 2009, when they won the Super Bowl.
Philadelphia (10-8) will not repeat as NFL champion; no team has done so since the 2004 Patriots.
This was really two games in one. Philly scored on its first two drives as the Saints could do virtually nothing right. After that, it was all New Orleans, but the resilient Eagles kept it close enough that when Lutz missed a 52-yard field
goal with 2:58 remaining, they were only one-score behind.
Foles, the hero of last year’s Super Bowl run, got them in position for yet another late winning score — just like last week at Chicago and last February against New England for the championship.
Then, Jeffery couldn’t handle a second-down pass, and it was over.
Brees had 2-yard touchdown passes to rookie Keith Kirkwood and AllPro wideout Michael Thomas, who had 12 receptions for 171 yards.
Maybe the Saints were rusty after their wild-card bye, but they got two first downs, including one by penalty, gained 17 yards, and Brees threw an interception and had a fumble that was recovered by teammate Ryan Ramczyk in the opening period. Meanwhile, Philly gained 153 yards and scored two TDs, and Foles went 8 of 9 for 113.
But Foles was intercepted by Lattimore early in the second quarter, and the Saints finally got going.
The Saints host the Rams in the late game next Sunday, with the winner going to the Super Bowl.
Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints is pushed out of bounds by Avonte Maddox of the Philadelphia Eagles during the fourth quarter in the NFC divisional playoff game on Sunday in New Orleans, La. The Saints won 20-14.
New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram runs against the Philadelphia Eagles in the second half of the NFC divisional playoff game in New Orleans on Sunday.