END OF THE ROAD

Ea­gles can’t hold early lead, fall to Saints

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Bog Grotz [email protected]­tu­ry­media.com

Phil­a­del­phia Ea­gles quar­ter­back Nick Foles (9) works in the first half of Sun­day’s NFL di­vi­sional play­off foot­ball game against the New Or­leans Saints, in New Or­leans. The Saints topped the Ea­gles, 20-14, to end Phil­a­del­phia’s bid for a cham­pi­onship re­peat.

The Ea­gles put on a show, which is tough for a vis­i­tor to do in this town.

But the Ea­gles faded af­ter me­thod­i­cally scor­ing two touch­downs in the first quar­ter, and their sea­son ended slowly and painfully in a 20-14 loss to the Saints in front of a crowd of 73,027.

The Ea­gles fought to their last breath. When Wil Lutz missed a 52-yard field goal at­tempt with 2:58 left, the Ea­gles had pretty good field po­si­tion at their own 42-yard line.

Nick Foles threw a 16-yard pass to Zach Ertz, then drew a rough­ing the passer penalty on Mar­cus Daven­port.

But on sec­ond-and-10 at the 27 of New Or­leans, Foles’ pass skid­ded through the hands of the nor­mally sure-handed Al­shon Jef­fery to Marshon Lat­ti­more, who had an­other in­ter­cep­tion.

Sec­onds later the Saints’ de­fense was pos­ing in the Philly end zone.

It looked like the Ea­gles might get one more pos­ses­sion with about a minute left but Alvin Ka­mara rushed for 12 yards on thir­dand-10.

The top-seeded Saints en­ter­tain the sec­ond-seeded Los Ange-

les Rams next Sun­day for the NFC cham­pi­onship.

The Kansas City Chiefs host the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots in the night­cap.

The Ea­gles took a 14-10 lead into the in­ter­mis­sion. It was a tale of two quar­ters, a dom­i­nant first and an in­jury-rid­dled sec­ond.

The Saints got their first lead with 1:40 left in the third quar­ter. And the Ea­gles made them work for it.

Thomas caught a two-yard pass from Brees to cap an 18-play, 92-yard touch­down march that of­fi­cially con­sumed 11-min­utes, 29-sec­onds but seemed like a life­time to the Ea­gles.

It gave the Saints a 17-14 ad­van­tage.

Brees con­verted tough third down af­ter tough third down due to 25 yards worth of penal­ties – one of which wiped out an ap­par­ent TD - as Carl Ch­ef­fers and his crew staked out their ter­ri­tory.

The big­gest play was when Brees stepped up in the pocket and zipped a 20-yard strike to Thomas on third-and-16 from the 32-yard line of the Ea­gles to set up the go-ahead tally.

Thomas beat Cre’Von LeBlanc on the throw, just not by much. LeBlanc flipped him on his spine just to see if he’d hold on.

LeBlanc in­ter­cepted Brees’ first pass of the game, a deep ball in­tended for Ted Ginn to give the Ea­gles a spark.

Foles guided the Ea­gles on a 76-yard scor­ing march, com­plet­ing all six of his passes, in­clud­ing a 37-yarder to Jor­dan Matthews for a 7-0 lead.

Foles com­pleted his first seven at­tempts for 83 yards, one TD and a 155.7 rat­ing, and he reached the ball over the pile to get the Ea­gles their sec­ond TD and a 14-0 lead with 4:37 left in the first quar­ter.

Brees started 0-for-3 with the pick.

Ea­gles lead 7-0 7:04 left in first quar­ter.

OG Bran­don Brooks be­ing carted off now. A big loss for of­fen­sive line. Ste­fen Wis­niewski re­places Brooks on right side.

Ra­sul Dou­glas, the cor­ner­back, also was carted off yet re­turned. It was that kind of day.

With 10:28, the Ea­gles weren’t done. They held the Saints to a Wil Lutz 39-yard field goal hik­ing the deficit to 20-14.

At that point the Ea­gles were short of healthy bod­ies, just as in their ear­lier loss to the Saints this sea­son.

With half the Philly de­fense in­jured, Brees hit Thomas for 40 yards to the 24-yard line of the Ea­gles. On fourth-and-goal at the 2, Brees lobbed a scor­ing pass to Keith Kirk­wood for the Saints’ first points.

The big­gest play on the 79yard drive was a fake punt on fourth-and-one at the Saint’s 30. Taysom Hill, the pro­tec­tor, took the snap and picked up four yards.

The Su­per­dome crowd, true to its rep­u­ta­tion, brought it. The Ea­gles’ of­fen­sive tim­ing was off so dras­ti­cally in the fourth quar­ter, it looked like Foles was play­ing in slow mo­tion.

AP PHOTO/BUTCH DILL

BUTCH DILL — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Phil­a­del­phia Ea­gles tight end Zach Ertz (86) sits on the turf af­ter the New Or­leans Saints in­ter­cepted a pass in the sec­ond half of an NFL di­vi­sional play­off foot­ball game in New Or­leans, Sun­day.

BILL FEIG — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

New Or­leans Saints quar­ter­back Drew Brees (9) speaks with Phil­a­del­phia Ea­gles quar­ter­back Nick Foles af­ter Sun­day’s NFL di­vi­sional play­off foot­ball game in New Or­leans.

BILL FEIG — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

New Or­leans Saints wide re­ceiver Michael Thomas (13) pulls in a touch­down re­cep­tion against Phil­a­del­phia Ea­gles cor­ner­back Cre’von LeBlanc (34) in the sec­ond half of an NFL di­vi­sional play­off foot­ball game in New Or­leans, Sun­day.

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