PHILADELPHIA — The New Orleans Saints finally came up with the right plan for outdoor playoff football in cold weather. That strategy got them their first postseason road victory.
Shayne Graham’s 32-yard field goal, the fourth Saturday night for the recent addition to the team, won it on the final play, 26-24, over the Philadelphia Eagles.
Drew Brees, who threw for a touchdown and guided the 34-yard drive to the winning kick, didn’t need to be a big star because the Saints’ running game and defense — along with Graham’s leg — provided the heroics.
‘‘It’s just, man, believing in each other, ignoring what everyone else has to say,’’ Brees said.
New Orleans (12-5) will play at NFC top seed Seattle next Saturday. The Saints lost there, 34-7, in the regular season.
‘‘It’s loud, it’s crazy, they've got a good thing going there,’’ Brees said of the next challenge.
Graham, signed by the Saints just over two weeks ago to replace longtime kicker Garrett Hartley, also connected from 36, 46, and 35 yards.
Brees threw for a touchdown, Mark Ingram rushed for 97 yards and another score, and the Saints’ defense slowed Chip Kelly’s uptempo offense just enough. New Orleans had been 0-5 in postseason games outside of the Big Easy since entering the league in 1967.
Philadelphia wound up 10-7 in Kelly’s first year as coach. He guided them from worst to first in the NFC East, but they were only 4-5 at home.
Nick Foles hit rookie Zach Ertz for a 3-yard touchdown with 4:54 remaining as Philadelphia rallied from a 13-point deficit to take a 1-point lead. But Darren Sproles had a 39-yard kickoff return and a horse-collar tackle brought New Orleans to the Philadelphia 48. Using mostly runs, the Saints ate up the clock and set up Graham’s winner.
Two of the most prolific offenses struggled to get things going early. Brees (20 for 30, 250 yards) threw a pair of interceptions, the second leading to Foles’s 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 of the Eagles had a 1-yard TD run on fourth and 1.
Foles finished 23 for 33 for 195 yards and two scores.
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 Lance 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 40 yards for his first of three catches. 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. Kicker Alex Henery then missed wide left from 48 yards out.
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. Shayne Graham then made a 36-yarder for a 3-0 lead.
Brees, who led the Saints to a Super Bowl win in 2009, had thrown 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 to linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who returned it 23 yards to the Saints’ 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’s 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 2 and 3 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 warm-ups.
New Orleans played without Pierre Thomas, the team’s leading rusher and second-leading receiver, who injured his chest last week.