Saints reflect on last playoff meeting with Eagles

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Saints running back Deuce McAllister dives over Eagles defenders for extra yardage during a divisional playoff game Jan. 13, 2007, in the Superdome. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Saints running back Deuce McAllister dives over Eagles defenders for extra yardage during a divisional playoff game Jan. 13, 2007, in the Superdome.

Over the past eight seasons, the most-tenured New Orleans Saints coaches and players have been a part of eight big postseason games — most notably a win in Super Bowl XLIV.

But those who were around for Sean Payton’s first season in 2006 will tell you their first playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Jan. 13, 2007 was a pretty big one.

In a way, that 27-24 divisional round win against the Eagles, whom the current Saints face in the wild-card round on Saturday night in Lincoln Financial Field, set the stage for things to come.

Running back Deuce McAllister put the team on his back that night and scored two touchdowns while rushing for 143 yards to spark the franchise’s second playoff win, sending them to the NFC title game against the Chicago Bears — which they lost 39-14.

“That was the biggest game of all of our careers at the time,” quarterback Drew Brees recalled. “There were a lot of guys that had come from different places. I know we were kind of labeled as castaways and a lot of (other) things.

“Coming here was a fresh start for a lot of us,” he said. “To have that opportunity, then to host the divisional round game and to beat Philly in the fashion we did and have an opportunity at the NFC championship, those are all great memories.”

Hello again

Saturday night’s game with the Eagles will actually be the third postseason matchup with that franchise for the Saints.

The Saints previously dropped a 36-20 decision to the Eagles, also in the Superdome, in a wild-card game following the 1992 season.

The Saints, who won 12 games that year, led 20-7 in the third period before the Eagles stormed back to win and advance to the divisional round.

It would be eight more years before the Saints reached the playoffs. That year, in 2000, they picked up their first postseason win in the 34th year of the franchise’s existence.

Doing it with ‘D’

In order to advance to the divisional round against the top-seeded Seattle Seahawks, the Saints will somehow have to at least slow down the Eagles’ up-tempo offense.

Unlike last season, the Saints have been more than adequate on that side of the ball under first-year defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who’ll be coaching in the playoffs for the first time.

The Saints allowed the fewest yards (305.7) and points (19.0) per game in the Payton era and also had the most sacks (49). The sacks total is the most for the franchise since they had 53 in 2001.

Previous bests under Payton were 306.3 yards and 19.2 points — both in 2010 — and 38 sacks in 2006.

Practice report

Only one Saints player missed practice Thursday as running back Pierre Thomas did not participate for the second straight day with a chest injury he sustained in Sunday’s game with Tampa Bay.

Safety Rafael Bush, who played Sunday after missing three games with a high ankle sprain, was limited Thursday after sitting out Wednesday’s workout.

For the Eagles, the only player to miss practice was guard Julian Vandervelde (back).

Stills fined

After drawing a 15-yard penalty for excessive celebration after Lance Moore’s 44-yard scoring catch in their win against the Bucs, Saints rookie Kenny Stills was fined $7,875 by the NFL.

Moore replicated a skit from a Comedy Central show that features a football player named Hingle McCringleberry and his unique touchdown celebration.

Stills arrived seconds after Moore’s touchdown and closely watched the act. As game officials looked on, Stills pulled his towel out and pretended to penalize Moore like in the skit.

“They got me because I threw my towel like a (penalty) flag,” Stills said. “They saw the skit (on TV) and asked me about it. They were laughing, so it was fun.”

Going back

Saints All-Pro guard Jahri Evans and outside linebacker Junior Galette will be going back “home” when the Saints face the Eagles.

Evans grew up just down the street from the Philadelphia Sports Complex that houses Lincoln Financial Field and later starred at nearby Division II Bloomsburg State.

Galette played his first three seasons at Temple University, which plays its home games in Lincoln Financial Field, before being dismissed from the team after the 2008 season. He finished his college career at Stillman College in Alabama.

“It’s very ironic that I’ll be playing on the same field that I played on for three years with Temple,” Galette said. “I can’t wait to get up there and eat a cheesesteak (sandwich). But it’s not about me, it’s about getting this win for this team.”

Tanking up

At least five players found large plastic gas cans in their lockers Wednesday, an old trick Payton has used before to remind them to make sure they have fuel left in the tank for the playoffs.

Among the players who got them were Brees, Moore, wide receiver Marques Colston, nose tackle Brodrick Bunkley and linebacker Parys Haralson.

Haralson, who is new to the team this season, acted like he didn’t know the meaning of the can when reporters asked about it.

“What does the can mean? You tell me,” Haralson said. “It depends on how you look at it, but it’s a ‘don’t-run-out-of-gas-league.’”

Just visiting

Former Saints offensive line coach Aaron Kromer, who left last January to become the Chicago Bears’ offensive coordinator, visited with some of his old friends Thursday at the Saints’ training facility in Metairie.

Kromer was in town to watch his son, Zak, serve as a student-coach for Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl on Thursday night. Zak Kromer, who played wide receiver and was a long snapper at Mandeville High, is a sophomore who works with the quarterbacks under Sooners offensive coordinator Jay Norvell.

Changing their luck

When New Orleans native and Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen president Ralph Bower heard that Saints players believed eating his company’s fried chicken on the team plane might solve their recent road doldrums, he acted swiftly.

He arranged to help personally deliver 100 three-piece meals with sides of red beans and rice to the team as it boards its chartered flight Friday afternoon to Philadelphia.

“When you just look at our brand, we wear our pride about where we came from on our sleeve,” said Bower, who grew up in Uptown and used to sell parking spaces at his house when the Saints played in Tulane Stadium.