Saints by the Numbers: Defense steps up after slow start

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NEW ORLEANS – After giving up touchdowns on the first two possessions, the Saints defense came to the rescue in New Orleans’ 20-14 NFC Divisional playoff victory over the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

After gaining eight first downs and 151 total yards in the first quarter, Philadelphia had just seven first downs and 99 total yards – and most importantly, no points – the rest of the way.

The 250 total yards are the fewest allowed by a Saints defense in a postseason game. The previous low, 256, also came against the Eagles – in the Wild Card game five years ago in Philadelphia.

Only on the Eagles’ final drive, which ended with a Marshon Lattimore interception, did Philadelphia cross the 50-yard line in the final three quarters.

That Comeback: The Saints rallied from a 14-0 deficit after one quarter Sunday, becoming just the sixth team in NFL postseason history to trail by at least 14 points after 15 minutes and come back to win the game.

Prior to Sunday, teams were 5-55 in the playoffs when trailing by at least 14 points at the end of the first quarter.

The comebacks are more of a recent trend, however, with four of the last 10 teams (including the Saints) coming all the way back to win.

Since January 2013, the other teams to rally from 14 or more down after the first quarter are last year’s Tennessee Titans (at Kansas City), the 2014 Dallas Cowboys (vs. Detroit) and the 2012 Seattle Seahawks (at Washington).

That Drive: The Saints’ first possession of the third quarter was one for the ages – an 18-play, 92-yard drive that took  11 minutes, 29 seconds off the clock and ended with the go-ahead 2-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to Michael Thomas.

In playoff games since 1999 – the first year the database website Pro Football Reference has drive information listed – only once previously has a team driven 18 or more plays for a touchdown, and it was exactly 11 years ago to the day when the Cowboys went 90 yards in 20 plays for a touchdown against the New York Giants.

Three other drives have gone 18 or more plays since 1999, but they resulted in a field goal, a blocked field goal and the end of the game.

Can’t Guard Mike: On the heels of a record-setting season, Thomas finished with 12 catches for a Saints postseason record 171 yards and a touchdown.

The third-year receiver is the sixth player in NFL postseason history with at least 12 receptions and 170 receiving yards in a game. The last player to reach those numbers was T.Y. Hilton of the Indianapolis Colts, who had 13 catches for 224 yards in that crazy 2013 Wild Card comeback victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

The other names read like a who’s who of receivers: Calvin Johnson (who did it against the Saints in January 2012), Steve Smith, Michael Irvin and Raymond Berry.

Double Your Pleasure: Lattimore’s two interceptions made him the third Saint to have multiple interceptions in a playoff game. Lattimore joins Jabari Greer (2011 Wild Card vs. Lions) and Sammy Knight (2000 Wild Card vs. Rams) in that group.

It’s been three seasons since any NFL player had multiple picks in a game. The last to do it before today – current Saint Kurt Coleman in the NFC Championship Game in January 2016.

Ground Game Gets Going: After gaining only 41 yards on the ground in the first half, New Orleans got things going after halftime and finished with 127 rushing yards.

The Saints are now 5-0 in their postseason history when gaining 120 or more yards rushing.

And Defense Stops the Run: Philadelphia finished with 49 rushing yards on 16 attempts, including just six yards on three tries after halftime.

Only twice previously has New Orleans held a playoff opponent to fewer rushing yards – 32 to Detroit in the 2011 Wild Card, and 34 to the St. Louis Rams in the 2000 Wild Card.

Close Games: Sunday marked the sixth consecutive Saints playoff game decided by one score (eight points or less). The last time the Saints had a margin of more than eight points was their 45-28 victory over the Detroit Lions in the Wild Card round of the 2011 playoffs.

Home Team Sweep: All four higher seeds and home teams won this weekend, capped off by the Saints’ victory.

It marks just the third time in the last 20 years (along with 2004 and 2015) that all four home teams won on Divisional weekend.

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Lenny Vangilder

Lenny Vangilder


Lenny has been involved in college athletics since the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…

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