Coming into this weekend, we heard it all. And it made us all worry at some point with good reason.
The Saints have a losing record this season on the road. The Saints don't play well offensively in cold weather. The Eagles have the NFL's leading rusher in Lesean McCoy and a very efficient quarterback who doesn't turn the ball over. Oh no, we're doomed. It's one and done for the Saints.
But for some reason, forgotten in all of this was the fact that the Saints can play some pretty damn good defense. It's easy to forget, considering how awesome this offense has been for so long. However, the fact remains that the Saints offense has been "different" on the road versus at home this season. So again, the odds seemed like they were stacked against us.
No Jabari Greer? No Kenny Vaccaro? No problem. The Saints defense was able to hold the NFL's second best offense to a total of only 256 yards in the Saints' 26-24 victory over the 3rd seeded Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday night. Rob Ryan and the Saints' defense was faced with the challenge of facing arguably one of the most dynamic and productive offenses in all of football and they came out exceeding the expectations of even some of the most optimistic Saints fans. If it wasn't for the Eagles picking on Rod Sweeting late in the game due to the absence of Keenan Lewis, the number of total yards allowed could be even more impressive.
If being without Greer and Vaccaro wasn't enough, the Saints went into this very important wild card matchup without starting running back Pierre Thomas. However, the Saints rushed for 185 yards on 36 carries (5.1 yards per carry) led by long time punching bag Mark Ingram. He has clearly not been a player that Saints fans have had confidence in over the years, but he has obviously been a much more motivated and productive player since returning from a turf toe injury this season. This is by far the best that Ingram has looked in his career as a Saint and deserves a lot of credit for this victory.
So believe it or not, this Saints team just advanced to the divisional playoff round mainly because of its defense and running game. Think about that. Drew Brees was fairly average in comparison to what he usually does in games where he faces below average pass defenses. Considering the fact that Philadelphia was the league's worst statistically versus the pass, Brees didn't necessarily light up the Philly sky, going 20 of 30 for 250 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs. But despite being -2 in the turnover department, the Saints were victorious playing football with a more "old school" style.
Saints vs. Eagles Photos
This is why the 2013 New Orleans Saints could be a different animal. With this defense, the offense doesn't necessarily have to put up 35 per game. Many of us said it before the season started. If the Saints have a top 20 defense, this team will be a problem for anyone. Well, this is a top 5 defense. They are definitely still a problem.
The next stop is a return visit to what will be a rowdy environment in Seattle. While the status of Keenan Lewis will be extremely important, we have plenty of reasons to feel much better about this matchup than we did about the first game. The circumstances are different and this is a team that will not accept being embarrassed two times by the same team. The Seahawks have been ran on this year. If the Saints continue this momentum in the run game, the improbable run may continue.
The road to the Super Bowl will not get any easier this week, but it is hard to not believe in what this defense is capable of doing against anyone. The Seahawks should be ready for a battle, because if this team gets all phases rolling to perfection, the Saints could become the little sixth seed that could make a run for the Lombardi.
Great victory guys. WHO DAT!?!