It took the Saints 46 years to win their first road playoff game. Is it possible their reputation as a pass-first, pass-always finesse team changed in a little more than a month? After New Orleans beat the Eagles, 26-24, Saturday in the NFC wild-card round, the overwhelming football-world reaction was yes. How the Saints prevailed in Philadelphia — using a stifling defense and a sound running game — excited prognosticators.
The rematch comes Saturday (1:35 p.m., FOX) at CenturyLink Field.
It’s tough to forget the manner in which the Seahawks dismantled at home the Saints 34-7 Dec. 2 on Monday Night Football. Seattle’s No. 1-ranked pass defense held quarterback Drew Brees to a season-worst 147 passing yards. The Saints managed the fewest total yards (188) since Sean Payton became coach in 2006, and the Rob Ryan-led defense let quarterback Russell Wilson have arguably his best game of the season (310 passing yards and three touchdowns), which momentarily made Wilson a legitimate MVP candidate.
A lot has changed. The Seahawks finished the regular season 2-2, and the Saints barely made the playoffs, grabbing the No. 6 seed before using a new formula to squeak by the Eagles in an environment so volatile that one New Orleans fan was spit on.
In the last month, Wilson has been solid but not spectacular, going 59 of 102 (57.8 percent) for 685 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. In the same time, Brees completed 71.1 percent of his throws (123 of 173) for 1,368 yards, 10 touchdowns and four interceptions.
- The Saints escaped loogie-filled Lincoln Financial Field by rushing 36 times for 185 rushing yards and limiting Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy to 77. They also won a game in which Brees wasn’t at his best in the first half.
- Entering the divisional round, they still have an elite quarterback and one of the best playcallers in the league.
- In USA Today Saturday, Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton compared the return trip to Seattle to Ali-Frazier II. That fight was the rematch following Joe Frazier’s win against Muhammad Ali at Madison Square Garden in the “Fight of the Century.”
- The Saints are happy the weather won’t reach freezing levels Saturday. It’s just going to be rainy and cold.