Going to bed Saturday night, the load on the back of the New Orleans Saints was significantly lighter without the massive monkey on it. The Saints won their first road playoff game in their franchise’s history as they topped the Philadelphia Eagles 26-24. In a matchup of high flying offenses, the Saints won with good defense and a physical running game.
Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson put their imprint on this game. Ingram carried the ball a season high 18 times and added 3 receptions averaging about 5.5 yards a touch. The performance by Ingram is what the Saints were looking for when they traded back into the first round to draft him. Robinson also ran with some purpose to spell Ingram adding 8 rushes for 45 yards. Meanwhile, Brees had a good completion percentage, but had a couple ugly interceptions in the first half. However, in the second half he managed the game properly as the running game carried the offense.
The other part of the equation was how well the defense played. There was some concern by experts and fans alike on how the defense was going to contain the NFL’s rushing leader Lesean McCoy. Concerns were quelled when the held Lesean to less than 4 yards a carry thanks to a valiant effort by the defensive line who controlled the line of scrimmage for most of the night.
In addition, Nick Foles, who was one of the top rated passers this season, was held to under 200 yards passing. Foles was having trouble due to the job that Keenan Lewis did on his top receiver Desean Jackson, holding him before having to exit the game with a head injury. The defense was solid all the way around despite two Brees turnovers putting them in compromising positions.
This is was a nice win and it punched their ticket to Seattle, a venue where the Seahawks embarrassed them on all fronts on Monday Night Football. It will be important for the Saints to bring the same physical nature to the Seahawks.
A healthy dose of Ingram and Robinson for the Saints to have a chance. However, Sean Payton should not expect the same gaudy numbers against the Seahawks that he enjoyed against the Eagles. It will be important for Payton to stay patient with the running game because passing will be tough against the best secondary in the NFL.
Meanwhile, the defense which has been great for most of the season will have to play much better against a Seattle team that moved the ball at will against them. It will be more difficult this time around without Kenny Vaccaro, but Corey White has developed a good bit since the first matchup, which was the first start of his career.
It will be a struggle for the Saints to keep their playoff run alive against the best team in NFC at one of the toughest venues in the league. However, it helps that Brees and company have played their earlier in the season; so maybe the team will be better prepared for the hostility that awaits them at Qwest field. The odds are stacked against them, but as long as they get a chance to play, anything can happen for the Saints.