When Drew Brees decides to hang up his football helmet, shoulder pads and cleats, the longtime NFL quarterback and one-time Super Bowl champion, can begin writing his Hall of Fame speech.
Last Sunday in an NFC divisional playoff matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles, Brees was masterful, rallying the New Orleans Saints over the last three quarters to a 20-14 victory at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and a place in the NFC title game.
The No. 1 seeded Saints will host the No. 2 seeded Rams on Sunday, who held off the Dallas Cowboys 30-22 on Saturday at the Coliseum.
Brees started by tossing an interception on the game’s initial play which quarterback Nick Foles cashed into a 7-0 lead when he directed the Eagles 76 yards and located wide receiver Jordan Matthews with a 37-yard pass for his only catch and 10:41 left in the first period.
Foles, subbing for Carson Wentz, was last year’s Super Bowl Most Valuable Player after leading Philadelphia to an upset win over New England.
On Sunday, the Patriots routed the visiting Chargers 41-28 and will travel to the Kansas City Chiefs, which bulldozed the visiting Indianapolis Colts 31-13 on Saturday, in the AFC championship game.
The Eagles (10-8), who fell to the Saints 48-7 on November 18, moved ahead 14-0 with 4:37 left in the same quarter as Foles (18 of 31 for 201 yards and two picks) dived and stretch one yard, capping a 75-yard trek which silenced the capacity crowd of 73,027.
Philadelphia (250 total net yards) was driving for the winning touchdown after Wil Lutz’s 52-yard field goal missed with 2:58 left.
The drive was foiled when a pass from Foles hit the hands of wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (63 yards on five catches), which was grabbed by cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who had two interceptions.
Down 14-0, the Saints would score 20 consecutive points that included a two-yard toss by Brees (28 of 38 for 301 yards and one pick) to wide receiver Keith Kirkwood (eight yards on two receptions) that sliced the lead to 14-7 with 7:23 left in the second frame and finalized a 79-yard march.
Brees shaved the lead to 14-10 after orchestrating a 67-yard drive that ended when Lutz hit a 45-yard field goal with six seconds left before the half.
When Brees drove the Saints 92 yards on 18 plays and ended the march with a two-yard strike to wide receiver Michael Thomas (game-best 171 yards on a game-high 12 catches), who attended Taft High in the San Fernando Valley and then Ohio State, New Orleans (420 total yards) led 17-14 with 1:40 showing in the third quarter.
The Saints (14-3) extended their lead to 20-14 when Lutz hit a 39-yarder with 10:28 left in the fourth as Brees drove his club 62 yards.
Rick Assad has written about sports for the Pasadena Star-News and Los Angeles Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.