Following a 42-17 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday that punched their playoff ticket, the New Orleans Saints (11-5) will travel to Lincoln Financial Field to face the Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) in a wild- card playoff game Saturday at 7:10 p.m.
The Saints enter the contest after a banner 2013 campaign that saw the club bounce back from a 7-9 record in 2012. Under the direction of Coach Sean Payton, the Saints opened the season 5-0 and went 9-3 against NFC opponents.
New Orleans closed the regular season playing a complementary style of football that it will look to carry into the postseason. The Saints were the only club to be ranked in the top five in the NFL both offensively and defensively, finishing fourth in both categories
New Orleans finished with the league's No. 4-ranked offense (second in passing). Quarterback Drew Brees was selected to his seventh Pro Bowl as a Saint and eighth overall as he completed 446-of-650 passes (68.6 percent) for 5,162 yards with 39 touchdowns and a 104.7 passer rating. Brees was protected on the interior by guards Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs, both of who were Pro Bowl selections.
Several skill players also provided the fireworks. Tight end Jimmy Graham enjoyed one of the most prolific seasons for a tight end in NFL record books as he made 86 receptions for 1,215 yards with a franchise-record 16 touchdown grabs. Running back Pierre Thomas finished with 1,062 yards from scrimmage as he led NFL running backs in receiving with 77 grabs for 513 yards with three touchdowns.
On defense, New Orleans was also ranked fourth, as they allowed an average of 305.7 yards per game, includ- ing second against the pass. Compared to last season's 440.1 yards allowed per game, the improvement of 134.4 yards per game was the greatest improvement in the NFL since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
The duo of defensive end Cameron Jordan and linebacker Junior Galette posted 12.5 and 12 sacks respectively, ranking fifth and sixth in the NFL in takedowns. Linebacker Curtis Lofton finished with a team-best 140 tackles. On the back end, cornerback Keenan Lewis, an offseason free-agent acquisition, led the team with four interceptions.
Under first-year Coach Chip Kelly and quarterback Nick Foles in his first year as the team's starter, the Eagles im- proved from 4-12 to 10-6 and captured the NFC East title. The Saints and Eagles have met twice before in the postseason, splitting the two meetings.