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John DeShazier: Saints already turning attention to Seattle

Posted Jan 5, 2014

No time to revel in big road victory over Eagles

The New Orleans Saints on Sunday still had a chance to reflect on and appreciate what they’d accomplished on Saturday, a 26-24 victory over the Eagles in Philadelphia in their NFC wild-card game, the first road playoff win in franchise history.

After five previous teams unsuccessfully attempted to win on the road in the playoffs, the 2013 Saints etched their name into the team’s record books by overcoming two turnovers and seven penalties, and statistically dominating an opponent that won seven of its final eight regular-season games and the NFC East title.

“I mentioned this yesterday,” Coach Sean Payton said. “I’m not interested in the franchise’s history. I said it to our players that if that were the case, we would be carrying a lot of baggage with us.

“Our job is to win and our job is to be consistent and be successful whether we play at home or on the road. We played well enough yesterday to get that win.”

But reflection, NFL-style, is fleeting, perhaps even more so in the playoffs.

Winners advance in the “tournament,” and the next trip for the Saints (12-5) will be a familiar one – to CenturyLink Field in Seattle, to face the NFC West champion Seahawks (13-3), the No. 1 seed who posted a 34-7 victory over the Saints on Dec. 2.

“That was a game we played not too long ago,” Payton said. “This is a team that has been dominant all season. They’re unbelievably talented defensively. Offensively, they’re coached very well. They’re on a roll. They’ve had one of those magical seasons and we have our work cut out for this one.” New Orleans Saints

“There are some good things that you want to remember from that game and some things we want to forget,” said tight end Benjamin Watson, one of three Saints players who’d experienced a playoff road victory before Saturday. He won on the road with New England in 2006.

“We were there not too long ago,” Watson said of Seattle. “Nothing would be a surprise to any of us. We know how hostile it is. We know how good their offense and defense are. It is almost like playing a divisional opponent at this point because we are playing them twice in a matter of weeks.

“The familiarity there with both teams, it is going to come down to execution like it always does. We have to out-execute them. We are going to have a great plan going in, but when it comes down to playoff games, it comes down to two teams that are well-coached and talented teams and who can execute the best.”

By any measure, the Saints did that against the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.

New Orleans outgained the Eagles 434-256 in total offense. It doubled its regular-season, per-game rushing average with 185 yards, and cut Philadelphia’s regular-season average in half (80).

Also, the Saints stopped the Eagles on nine of 12 third-down attempts, held a time of possession advantage of 34:53 to 25:07, and produced a drive that resulted in Shayne Graham’s game-winning, 32-yard field goal as time expired.

“Certainly when you watch the tape, the score could have been a lot bigger,” Payton said. “When you look at the time of possession, third down snaps, the rushing totals, total yardage, I thought defensively we did a great job considering some of the injuries we had. The running game really helped us and in the kicking game we came up with the plays we needed. It was a great team game.”

But New Orleans will look to be sharper in its next game, and hopes to benefit from the earlier dress rehearsal.

“Definitely,” nose tackle Brodrick Bunkley said Sunday. “It was loud out there, we expected that coming in. When you face an opponent previously in the season, you kind of have a better idea of what you’re going against and it helps you prepare for it a little bit better.”

Said Payton: “Each stadium presents a different environment to some degree. For our team, we have a lot of young players on this team. Going to Philadelphia is one thing. Going to Seattle is another.

“Each can be challenging in their own ways. Certainly noise is an issue on the road, with the challenges to communication it can create. Those are all things you experience, you have to work through and that we try to replicate here.”

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