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Brees rallies Saints to 20-14 lead over Eagles

By ROB MAADDI - AP Pro Football Writer
    2014-01-04 21:43

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Drew Brees threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Lance Moore, Mark Ingram ran in from the 4 and the New Orleans Saints took 20-14 lead over the Philadelphia Eagles after three quarters in an NFC wild-card playoff game Saturday night.

Two of the NFL's most prolific offenses struggled to get things going early. Brees threw a pair of interceptions, the second leading to Nick Foles' 10-yard TD pass to Riley Cooper.

But the eight-time Pro Bowl quarterback bounced back with the go-ahead TD pass in the third quarter and key completions on another scoring drive.

NFL rushing champion LeSean McCoy had a 1-yard TD run on fourth-and-1.

Shayne Graham kicked pair of field goals for the Saints. Alex Henery missed from 48 yards for Philadelphia.

The Saints (11-5) are seeking the franchise's first playoff win in six tries on the road. The Eagles (10-6) went worst-to-first in the NFC East under rookie coach Chip Kelly.

The teams combined for an average of 816.7 yards and 53.5 points per game during the regular season. But defense dominated early.

Down 7-6 at halftime, the Saints forced a three-and-out on Philadelphia's first possession of the second half. Foles was called for intentional grounding and then got sacked. The Saints took over at their 47 after a punt and Brees quickly moved them down field. He rolled out and hit Moore for a 24-yard TD for a 13-7 lead.

On the ensuing possession, the Eagles missed a big opportunity. Cooper was wide open going over the middle, but dropped a pass on third-and-4 that would've gone for a long gain.

The Saints took advantage. Brees completed a 14-yard pass to Kenny Stills on third-and-12 and Ingram scored a few plays later for a 20-7 lead.

But Philadelphia answered. Foles connected with DeSean Jackson for a 40-yard catch to the Saints for his first catch. McCoy scored a few plays later.

After Bradley Fletcher intercepted Brees in the first quarter, the Eagles were at the Saints 15 after McCoy ran 8 yards on fourth-and-1. But a pass to Brent Celek lost 8 yards and Foles took a sack for an 11-yard loss. Henery then missed wide left.

The Saints then drove to the Eagles 13 before nearly losing the ball again. Jimmy Graham fumbled, but the call was reversed after a video review showed he was down before the ball came out. Graham then made a 36-yarder for a 3-0 lead.

Brees, who led the Saints to a Super Bowl title in 2009, had thrown just four interceptions in his first nine playoff games before tossing two picks in the first half. The Saints were at the Eagles 41 before Brees threw one right to linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who returned it 23 yards to the New Orleans 44.

Foles connected with Cooper for 22 yards on first down. On third down, he found Cooper running across the back of the end zone for a TD.

Graham kicked a 47-yarder at the end of the second quarter to cut it to 7-6.

Brees and Foles became just the second pair of quarterbacks from the same high school to play each other in a playoff game. Brees led Westlake High School to the Texas state championship in 1996. Foles broke several of Brees' passing records and guided the Austin-based school to the title game in 2006, but lost.

A day after a storm dumped 8 inches of snow on Philadelphia, there was hardly any trace of it at Lincoln Financial Field. Team officials estimated workers removed between two and three million pounds of snow from the stadium and surrounding parking lots. Temperature at kickoff was 25 degrees, but the cold weather didn't prevent Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis from coming out shirtless for pregame warm-ups.

New Orleans played without Pierre Thomas, the team's leading rusher and second-leading receiver. Thomas injured his chest last week.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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