Saints’ road playoff losing streak comes to an end

Associated Press photo by MATT ROURKE -- The Eagles' Cary Williams pulls down Saints running back Darren Sproles by his collar during the second half of Saturday's NFC wild-card game in Philadelphia. Williams was penalized for the tackle.
Associated Press photo by MATT ROURKE -- The Eagles' Cary Williams pulls down Saints running back Darren Sproles by his collar during the second half of Saturday's NFC wild-card game in Philadelphia. Williams was penalized for the tackle.

PHILADELPHIA — Five was enough for the New Orleans Saints.

The Saints had never won a road playoff game in five opportunities before Saturday night’s 26-24 win against the Philadelphia Eagles in Lincoln Financial Field.

But Shayne Graham’s fourth field goal of the game, a 32-yarder on the game’s final play, at long last ended the road hex for the Saints.

While the thrilling win undoubtedly erased lingering playoff nightmares for many former and current Saints, it also eased the pain of five losses in their last six games away from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome this season.

The Saints previously lost in the playoffs at Chicago (1990, 2006), Minnesota (2000), Seattle (2010) and San Francisco (2011).

The No. 6-seeded Saints moved on to the divisional round on Saturday to face the top-seeded Seattle Seahawks in CenturyLink Field. The Saints dropped a 34-7 decision to the Seahawks there on Dec. 2.

Family matters

Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, whose unit gave up just 256 yards to the Eagles’ second-ranked offense, had a little extra inspiration for the game.

Ryan’s father, Buddy, was the Eagles’ head coach from 1986-90. He had a 43-35-1 regular-season record in five seasons, but was fired after going 0-3 in the playoffs.

On Saturday night, Rob Ryan’s play sheet had a photo of his 82-year-old father on it. Every time he held the play sheet up to his mouth, Buddy Ryan was facing the field.

On Friday, Rob Ryan talked about what it meant to be going to the city where his dad got a chance to be a head coach after 25 seasons as an assistant.

“That’s definitely one of his favorite spots. … He loves that town,” he said. “It’s a tough town; it has been well documented. It was a great spot for my dad, and he did great there.”

Another takeaway

When cornerback Bradley Fletcher intercepted a Drew Brees pass on the Saints’ third possession of the game, it marked the 13th consecutive game with at least one takeaway for the Eagles.

They had 19 interceptions and 31 total takeaways, which tied for third-most in the league, in 16 regular-season games.

Linebacker DeMeco Ryans had a second interception of Brees in the second quarter.

Familiar foes

The Saints’ matchup with the Eagles was their third in the playoffs, which equaled the most against any opponent in their postseason history.

The teams previously met in the wild-card round in 1992, a game the Eagles won, before the Saints claimed a victory in the divisional playoffs in 2006 with New Orleans winning.

The Saints have also played the Minnesota Vikings three times in 1987, 2000 and 2009.

Inactives

The Saints inactives were RB Pierre Thomas (chest), LB Keyunta Dawson (calf), S Isa Abdul-Quddus, DE Tyrunn Walker, WR Nick Toon, CB Terrence Frederick and QB Ryan Griffin.

For the Eagles, center Julian Vandervelde (back) was the only player to miss the game because of injury.

The only other inactive of note was WR Damaris Johnson, a Norco native who played at Destrehan High School.

Injuries

Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis suffered a head injury while making a tackle midway through the third quarter and was held out the rest of the way. … Saints linebacker Parys Haralson left the game late in the first half with a chest injury and didn’t return.

For the Eagles, tight end Brent Celek suffered a neck injury late in the game and did not return.

Lagniappe

Temperature at kickoff was 25 degrees. The Saints are now 3-7 under Payton in games when the temperature at kickoff is 40 or below. … Each Saints player earned $21,000 as a true wild-card team for Saturday night’s game, while the Eagles received $23,000 each as a division winner playing in the wild-card round. … Eagles punter Donnie Jones, a former Catholic High and LSU standout, averaged 48.8 yards on five kicks.

Advocate assistant sports editor Perryn Keys contributed to this report.