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Defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins now has positive playoff experience to remember with New Orleans Saints

Finished with a sack and two tackles for loss in 21-9 victory over Chicago

Gallery_Game_Action_WildCard_Saints_Bears_20200110_326
Game action photos from the New Orleans Saints vs. Chicago Bears matchup in the Wild Card round of the 2020 NFL playoffs.

There's nothing particularly striking about the official play-by-play record.

The longhand version is this: Second-and-7 for the Chicago Bears from the New Orleans Saints' 32-yard line, 12:32 left in the third quarter, shotgun formation, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky sacked at the New Orleans 40 for minus-8 yards, by Sheldon Rankins.

And yet, no longhand version can do justice to how substantial the play was for Rankins, the Saints' defensive tackle who recorded New Orleans' only sack in its 21-9 Wild Card playoff game victory over Chicago on Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The last time Rankins participated in a playoff game was Jan. 3, 2019, when the Saints played Philadelphia in a divisional round playoff game in the Superdome. New Orleans went on to win and advance to the NFC Championship Game, but Rankins wasn't around to celebrate the win.

In the first quarter of the game, he ruptured his Achilles. And the next year, when the Saints again advanced to the playoffs, Rankins already was on injured reserve and didn't play.

So the last time he'd been on the field for a playoff game, he left on a cart, requiring medical attention, unable to simply shake it off and return to the lineup.

With that in mind, the five-year veteran entered Sunday's game with a mix of emotion and business-as-usual in his approach.

"It was probably a little of both," he said Monday. "The thought definitely crossed my mind about it, kind of replayed the whole thing in my head a few times. But that's kind of all of the build up to it, and then once I'm playing, I'm playing, I'm just out there competing and trying to help this team.

"A little bit business as usual – obviously, the task at hand is the task at hand. Got to go out there and help this team win. But definitely, in the back of my head is always that moment, when everything kind of changed forever for me, really.

"That's not something that you ever forget, the process that you go through to get back. So it's definitely in the back of my head, but once I'm playing, I'm playing. Go out there and make some plays for this team."

Rankins made a play that was significant; New Orleans got a third-down stop, Chicago opted to punt rather than attempt a long field goal to possibly pull to within 7-6, and the Saints embarked on a 12-play, 85-yard touchdown march that lasted almost half a quarter (7:29) and helped take the wind out of Chicago.

He finished with two tackles, a tackle for loss, two quarterback hits and the sack. But for Rankins, most importantly, he finished.

"That thought definitely crossed my mind," he said. "Last time I was out there, it wasn't for very long and it didn't end too well. But it's just exciting to be out there and be playing well, be able to make some plays for this defense and get that under my belt and help this team try to get to what we want to achieve."

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