PHILADELPHIA — Shayne Graham kicked a 32-yard field goal as time expired to lift the New Orleans Saints to a 26-24 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday night in an NFC wild-card playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field.
Graham’s field goal, his third of the game, came after the Eagles had scored a go-ahead touchdown on a 3-yard pass from quarterback Nick Foles to tight end Zach Ertz with 4:54 left in the game. But the Saints — thanks to a 40-yard kickoff return by Darren Sproles and a 15-yard penalty against the Eagles — marched down for Graham’s game-winner.
The Saints advance to the second round of the playoffs next Sunday, where they’ll hit the road for the second straight week to play the Carolina Panthers, who had a first-round bye.
The Saints came out after halftime trailing 7-6, but ready to play on both sides of the ball. The Eagles took the second-half kickoff and Foles was flagged for intentional grounding, and then was sacked by end Akiem Hicks and the Eagles had to punt the ball away.
The Saints took over on their own 47 and quickly moved in for a go-ahead touchdown, when quarterback Drew Brees found wide receiver Lance Moore open over the middle for a 24-yard touchdown and a 13-7 lead.
Then, after the Eagles offense went three-and-out, the Saints marched in again, keyed by a 14-yard pass to wide receiver Kenny Stills on third-and-12. Mark Ingram bulldozed in from the 4 to give the Saints a 20-7 lead with 3:54 left in the third quarter.
The Eagles closed the gap at the end of the quarter, thanks to a 40-yard reception by wide receiver DeSean Jackson, his first catch of the game. That put the ball on the Saints 9, and running back LeSean McCoy carried it in from the 1 to cut the Saints’ lead to 20-14 with 32 seconds left in the period.
A 29-yard punt return by Jackson gave the Eagles good field position on the Saints’ 40, but the Eagles could only manage a 31-yard field goal by Alex Henery that made it 20-17 with 11:14 left to play. But the Saints came right back, thanks to a 40-yard reception by Robert Meachem, for a 35-yard field goal that pushed their lead back six points, 23-17 with 8:04 left in the game.
But the Eagles stormed back again, largely due to a 40-yard penalty against Saints cornerback Corey White, who was flagged for interference against DeSean Jackson on the New Orleans 3. Two plays later, Foles flipped a pass to tight end Zach Ertz in the end zone and the Eagles led 24-23 with 4:54 left to play.
Both teams frittered away good scoring chances in the first half. First, the Saints had the ball on the Eagles’ 49-yard line when Brees tried to hook up with wide receiver Kenny Stills on a long sideline pattern, but cornerback Bradley Fletcher intercepted the ball on the Eagles’ 3 and returned it to the 27.
The Eagles then marched downfield, keyed by a 24-yard pass from Foles to tight end Brent Celek that put the ball on the Saints’ 32. The Eagles went for it on fourth-and-1 from the 23 and converted on McCoy’s 8-yard run, but the Eagles were thrown for losses on two straight plays, including a sack of Foles by end Cameron Jordan. Henery missed a 48-yard field-goal try.
The Saints took advantage of that and moved in for their first score, a 36-yard field goal by Graham with 8:36 left in the second quarter.
The Eagles got that back after linebacker DeMeco Ryans intercepted a pass from Brees and returned it 23 yards to the Saints’ 44. A 22-yard pass to wide receiver Riley Cooper got the Eagles moving, and the Eagles cashed in when Foles found Cooper in the back of the end zone with a 10-yard TD pass that made it 7-3 with 1:48 left in the half.
The Saints cranked up their two-minute drill to move into position for Graham’s 46-yarder as time expired, and the teams walked to the locker room with the Eagles leading 7-6.
NOTES: More than 600 workers removed about three tons of snow from the Lincoln Financial Field complex on Friday and Saturday. … Mark Ingram started at running back for the Saints, replacing injured Pierre Thomas (back). … RB LeSean McCoy is the first Eagles player to lead the league in rushing (1,607 yards) since Steve Van Buren did it in 1949 (1,146 yards in 12 games). … Going into Saturday night, the Saints had won four of their last six playoff games, including Super Bowl XLIV. … Eagles QB Nick Foles threw just two interceptions in 317 attempts this season, and that 0.63 percent interception rate is the third lowest in NFL history.