The Eagles would drive 44 yards down field to score on a 10-yard pass from Nick Foles to Riley Cooper to take the lead at 7-3, but the Saints would pull within one, hitting a field goal as time expired in the first half.
Philadelphia struggled to establish much offensively early, especially with the run, but with the help of two first half interceptions by the defense were able to keep the game close.
"We didn't do a very good job offensively capitalizing off of their turnovers," said Eagles coach Chip Kelly.
LeSean McCoy, the league's leading rusher this season, managed only 32 yards rushing in the first half, while Foles passed for just 98 yards. While Foles did not rack up the yards early, he was efficient, committing zero turnovers.
The second half would not start off pretty for the Birds, as the Saints drove 53 yards and found the end zone on a 24-yard pass from Brees to Lance Moore to take a 13-7 lead. On the ensuing drive, Foles would hit Riley Cooper in the hands on 3rd and 4 but the receiver would drop it with tons of room to run.
New Orleans would drive the field again, finding the end zone on a 4-yard run by Mark Ingram to extend their lead to 20-7. With the Eagles struggling to tackle, a depleted Saints run game was able to have a much better game than expected.
"They were just doing a real good job of getting off of blocks and making plays," said Kelly. "There were some times when it could've been locked up a bit cleaner."
With their backs against the wall a bit, the Eagles began to pick up the pace, as Foles hit DeSean Jackson with a 40-yard pass to get the Eagles to the 9 yard line and McCoy punched it home from one yard out on fourth down.
Down just 20-14, the Eagles defense came up with a big stop on the ensuing drive to give the offense back the ball. Driving the field much better, the Eagles would notch a 31-yard field goal to pull within three. The Saints would respond moments later with a field goal of their own to extend their lead to 23-17.
Philadelphia would respond with yet another drive down field, as the Saints were called for pass interference to bring the ball 40 yards down to the 3 yard line. Two plays later Foles would hit Zach Ertz for the go-ahead touchdown with less than five minutes remaining.
The Eagles had the lead, but the Saints had plenty of time. On the kickoff, Darren Sproles was on the verge of breaking free to run the kick back for a touchdown, but Cary Williams was able to stop him with the help of a horse collar tackle.
With the penalty, the Saints would now have the ball at the Eagles 48 yard line with 4:54 to play. New Orleans would slowly chip away, driving the ball to the Philadelphia 14 before kicking a 32-yard field goal for a 26-24 win and a trip to Seattle for the divisional round of the playoffs.
"I don't think us winning the division or getting to the playoffs is a surprise to us and we're disappointed we didn't move forward," Kelly said of the loss.
Philadelphia's offense picked things up in the second half, but with the defense struggling to make tackles, the Eagles were unable to pull off the win.
While the loss hurts, the team exceeded all expectations this season. The Eagles appear to be on the right path and have a bright future ahead of them.
"This season's over but we're going to keep working and growing as a team," said Eagles quarterback Nick Foles. "We have a great team because we have great people here."
By: Kyle Babcock
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