Ea­gles

The Times Herald (Norristown, PA) - - SPORTS -

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.

The turnover proved costly, with the Pa­tri­ots scor­ing just four plays later when Michel crossed the goal line from 5 yards for his third touch­down of the half.

New Eng­land es­tab­lished the run early, cre­at­ing big holes in a Charg­ers de­fense that ended the reg­u­lar sea­son ranked ninth in the NFL, al­low­ing just 106 rush­ing yards per game.

Michel car­ried 16 times for 105 yards in the first half.

He set the tone early, scor­ing from 1 yard on the open­ing pos­ses­sion of the game. It capped a 14-play, 83-yard drive in which he rushed five times for 15 yards and had a 9-yard re­cep­tion.

The Pa­tri­ots added scor­ing drives of 67, 58, 87 and 35 yards. MILE­STONES >> Michel be­came just the sec­ond Pa­tri­ots rookie in fran­chise his­tory to have a rush­ing touch­down in the post­sea­son. He joined fel­low Ge­or­gia alum, Robert Ed­wards, who ran for a touch­down as a rookie in New Eng­land’s 1998 wild-card loss to Jack­sonville.

Michel also be­came the first New Eng­land player with two rush­ing TDs in the first quar­ter of a play­off game since LeGar­rette Blount did it in the 2013 di­vi­sional-round win against In­di­anapo­lis.

Brady ex­tended his post­sea­son record with his 15th ca­reer 300-yard pass­ing game. Next is Pey­ton Man­ning with nine.

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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