In a contest that very much resembled playoff football, the New Orleans Saints triumphed over the Philadelphia Eagles 26-24. With Saints quarterback Drew Brees having a below-average outing, it was the run game—in addition to the defense—that steered the Saints to victory.
Head coach Sean Payton called a brilliant game that finally saw the Saints run the ball more than they threw it. With starting running back Pierre Thomas a late scratch due to injury, fellow backs Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson put on an absolute clinic against the Eagles defense.
In addition, the Saints defense lived up to its billing as the No. 4-ranked defense in the regular season by virtually shutting down the very best run offense in the NFL and limiting its explosive passing attack as well.
The Saints couldn't have asked for a worse situation to be in, as they struggled both on the road and in inclement weather during the regular season. But they undoubtedly exorcised the demons—and did so in the playoffs no less.
Up next is possibly the very best the NFC has to offer in the Seattle Seahawks. If the Saints can replicate this balanced performance while limiting turnovers, they could very well find themselves in the NFC Championship Game in two weeks.
The task will be extremely difficult, but it's one the Saints can complete with balanced play on both sides of the ball.
Here are my takeaways from the game.