Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Orleans vs. Philadelphia in the Postseason

The Eagles won in Dallas Sunday night to clinch the NFC East title and the third seed in the NFC playoffs. The Saints earned a postseason berth with a win over the Bucs setting up Saturday night's wild-card showdown in Philly.

This will be the third Saints-Eagles playoff meeting and the fourth between these two cities in a Big Four postseason.

1992 Wild Card Round

The Saints went 12-4 on the strength of their stout defense, led by linebackers Rickey Jackson, Pat Swilling, Vaughan Johnson and Sam Mills. They held opponents to 202 points, the fewest allowed by any team between 1987 and 2000. Despite equaling the franchise's all-time high in wins, they could only manage a wild-card spot as the 49ers went 14-2.

Their first-round opponent was an 11-5 Eagles squad that was playing to honor the memory of star defensive tackle Jerome Brown, who was killed in an auto accident before the season. The Birds were well-balanced as both the offense (led by Randall Cunningham) and the defense (led by Reggie White) ranked in the top six in scoring.

The game at the Superdome was overshadowed by the day's other playoff game that had just ended in Buffalo. Down 35-3, the Bills pulled off the greatest comeback in NFL history when they beat the Oilers 41-38 in overtime.

New Orleans struck first when Craig "Ironhead" Heyward scored on a 1-yard touchdown plunge, but the Eagles answered back on this deep ball:

The Saints led 20-7 in the third quarter and were still up 20-10 with 11 minutes left, but the Eagles came back again.

Ahead for the first time at 24-20, the great Reggie White added two more points to the lead by taking down Bobby Hebert in the end zone.

A field goal made it a two-possession game and then 19 seconds later, Eric Allen iced it with a pick-six.

Philadelphia scored 29 unanswered points to win 36-20. Their 26 points in the fourth quarter are the most ever in the final stanza of a playoff game. They would fall a week later in the divisional round to the eventual champion Cowboys, 34-10.

2006 Divisional Round

With new coach Sean Payton and new quarterback Drew Brees, the Saints returned to the Superdome after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Their first home game was on Monday Night Football and it only took one minute for a legendary play to be made.

New Orleans went 10-6 and in the franchise's 40th season, earned a first-round bye for the first time ever. A week six win over the 10-6 Eagles gave them the tiebreaker and the two-seed. They drew Philly in the divisional round after the Eagles edged the Giants in the wild-card game.

It's amazing that I was able to track down the video of the 1992 game pretty easily, yet I was unable to find any good video for this 2006 contest. The NFL site has links to video of the game, but they have since been taken down.

Two short field goals put the hosts in front, but the Eagles took the lead in the second quarter on Jeff Garcia's 75-yard bomb to Donte Stallworth. New Orleans responded with a 14-play 78-yard march that ended with Reggie Bush's 4-yard score. But Philadelphia scored again right before halftime for a 14-13 lead, then made it an eight-point game on Brian Westbrook's 62-yard touchdown run.

The second half, however, belonged to Deuce McAllister. The running back scored on the next two New Orleans drives, once on the ground and once through the air as the Saints took a 27-21 lead. The Eagles reached the New Orleans 6 with 11 minutes to play, but Andy Reid chose to kick a field goal rather than try to go back in front. Philly went three-and-out on their two remaining drives and never reached midfield. The Saints prevailed 27-24 and advanced to their first NFC Championship Game.

In Chicago a week later, the Saints were doomed by four turnovers and the Bears rolled them 39-14 to deny them a Super Bowl trip. But that 2006 season was just a sign of things to come as the Saints became one of the league's premier franchises and won a championship three years later.

2003 NBA First Round

After the Charlotte Hornets moved to New Orleans their first two seasons in the Crescent City were in the Eastern Conference. That first spring resulted in a 47-35 record and the city's first playoff team since the ABA's Buccaneers in 1969. The 76ers won one more game during the regular season to secure home-court advantage in the 4-5 first round matchup.

Allen Iverson led the way for Philly in the opener with 55 points, tied for the sixth-most in playoff history (An old link, but the list is still correct as no one has scored more than 51 since).

The Sixers won again at home to go up 2-0, but for Game Three the series moved to New Orleans for the city's first NBA playoff game, which the Hornets won by 14. Philadelphia took command in the fourth game as six players scored in double figures in a 96-87 victory. They missed a chance to clinch at home, however, when New Orleans hung on for a two-point win to stay alive.

Game Six was another thriller. The 76ers were clinging to a 103-101 lead in the waning seconds and New Orleans needed a stop, but that was often hard to do against Iverson.

Top-seeded Detroit dispatched the Sixers in six games in the next round. Now that the Pelicans (as they are now called) are in the West, the only way to get a New Orleans-Philly meeting in the NBA postseason is in the Finals.

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