With one swing of his right leg, Shayne Graham kicked the New Orleans Saints into the divisional round of the 2013 NFL playoffs and all the way back to Seattle.
It was Graham’s 32-yard field goal on the final play of the game Saturday night that lifted the Saints to a 26-24 victory over the NFC East champion Eagles in wild-card game in Philadelphia. As the No. 6 seed in the NFC, despite their 11-5 record during the regular season, the Saints will play the top-seeded Seahawks at CenturyLink Field next Saturday at 1:35 p.m.
“It’s loud, it's crazy, they've got a good thing going there," Saints QB Brees told reporters after the game when asked about facing the Seahawks next Saturday.
Graham was with the Seahawks during training camp and the preseason in 2001, before being released on the final roster cut. Since then, he has kicked for 12 other NFL teams – the Panthers, Bengals, Ravens (twice), Giants, Patriots, Redskins, Cowboys, Vikings, Texans, Browns, Steelers and, for the past two-plus weeks, the Saints.
In addition to his game-winner, Graham also kicked 36- and 46-yard field goals in the first half, when the Eagles led 7-6 before the Saints scored touchdowns on their first two possessions of the second half to take a 20-7 lead.
The Saints, meanwhile, played at CenturyLink Field on “Monday Night Football” in Week 13 this season, when they lost to the Seahawks 34-7. The Saints also played in Seattle in the 2010 playoffs, when the Seahawks upset the defending Super Bowl champions 41-36 in a wild-card game.
In that Dec. 2 game this season, Seahawks quarterback
Brees, meanwhile, was 20 of 30 for 250 yards against the Eagles. After throwing two interceptions in the first half, he led 53- and 66-yard drives to open the second half that ended in his 23-yard TD pass to Lance Moore and a 4-yard TD run by Mark Ingram – who got more than his usual share of carries because leading rusher Pierre Thomas was out with a rib injury. The Eagles rallied to take a 24-22 lead with 4:54 remaining, but Brees then led the drive to Graham’s game-winner by running for first downs twice on third-and-short plays.
“We know what we're all about," Brees said. “This was a great testament to that. Coming on the road, hostile environment, great team, one of the hottest teams in football and getting one of those big victories.”
Here’s a closer look at the 2013 Saints:
New Orleans Saints
Seed: No. 6, as the second wild-card team
They’ll play Seahawks because: They beat the No. 3 seed Eagles in Philadelphia and are the lowest-seeded survivor from the wild-card round
Road record: 3-5, including losses in their last three road games
Where they ranked: No. 4 on offense (25th rushing, 2nd passing); No. 4 on defense (19th rushing, 2nd passing)
Worth noting: The Saints were 0-5 on the road in the playoffs before Saturday night. … The Saints were 8-0 at home this season, including victories over the playoff-bound 49ers and Panthers. But they lost on the road to the New York Jets (8-8) and St. Louis Rams (7-9) and beat the Atlanta Falcons (4-12) by four points and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12) by two points.
Most recent game in Seattle: A 34-7 loss in Week 13 on “Monday Night Football,” as Russell Wilson passed for 310 yards and three touchdowns and also was the Seahawks’ leading rusher with 47 yards. The Seahawks’ No. 1-ranked defense limited the Saints to 188 yards – 44 rushing and 147 passing by QB Drew Brees.