As we approach this season’s Divisional round, two teams are squaring off with more than a little bit of history. The rematch between the New Orleans Saints and the Philadelphia Eagles is the resignation of a bitter rivalry that began more than two decades ago, when the Eagles came from behind to send the Saints packing on a one-and-done trip to the 1992 NFL playoffs. After outscoring the season’s top defense 29-0 in the game’s final quarter, many Saints fans see this year’s matchup as a way to finally close old wounds.
A Trip Down Memory Lane
As the 1992 regular season came to an end, the New Orleans Saints found themselves sitting at 12-4, second in the NFC West behind perennial division winners and first-seed San Francisco 49ers. Coming off another impressive campaign, New Orleans had the 10th-ranked offense and the top defense in the entire NFL. It would be the Saints fourth consecutive playoff appearance, having lost the Wild Card round of each of the previous three seasons. The Saints initially started the season 2-2 before rallying to a 10-2 finish.
On January 3, 1993, a crowd of more than 68,000-plus showed up fully expecting the New Orleans Saints to earn their first playoff win in franchise history. Unfortunately, the home team could not haven’t drawn a worse matchup.
A New Challenger Has Entered the Arena
Holding the fourth-seed in the playoffs, the Saints would host the 11-5 Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card round. Like the Saints, the Eagles were coming off an impressive season of their own – coming second in their division behind the Dallas Cowboys. Ranked 5th in the NFL in total offense and 6th in total defense, it was the Eagles fifth consecutive playoff appearance.
Coming into the game, both teams had a shared history of postseason struggles. Both teams were a combined 0-7 in the postseason over the previous 12 seasons. Earlier in the year, the Saints and Eagles met in the first week, with Philadelphia coming out on top in a 15-13 victory.
The Battle Begins
The Saints opened the game with an easy Craig Heyward touchdown plunge, putting the Saints out to an early 7-0 lead. The Eagles would immediately answer when Fred Barnett streaked past the Saints secondary for a 57-yard touchdown strike from Randall Cunningham.
After that score, the vaunted Saints defense would return to form. They held Hershel Walker and the high-flying Eagles offense at bay, allowing the Saints to score two Morton Anderson field goals and a seven-yard touchdown by Quinn Early. With thirteen unanswered points and 20-7 lead deep into the third quarter, it was finally the Saints time to bury the past and win their first playoff game. The Saints were in control and the Eagles “elite” pass rush – featuring guys like Reggie White and Clyde Simmons – was nowhere to be found.
However, the Saints and their fans would soon find out that their playoff curse ran deeper that the waters of the mighty Mississippi.
Trouble in Paradise
The Saints first mistake of the game appeared harmless at the time, but would set off a series of events that lives in the folklore of the Saints’ franchise to this day. Near the end of the third quarter, a pass from Bobby Hebert found its way into the arm of Eagles cornerback Eric Allen. The interception would set up a 40-yard Roger Ruzek field goal. More than that, it would adjust the course of history and decide the fate of of the 90s’ best teams.
Quickly obliterating a 13-point deficit, the Eagles returned the Saints to the “Aints” of prior seasons by scoring 26 points in an 8:20 stretch. With 10:35 left in the game and down by ten, Cunningham once again foundBarnett for a 35-yard touchdown. On the ensuing possession, a second Hebert pass would be intercepted by Seth Joyner and set up a six-yard touchdown run by Heath Sherman, firmly setting Philadelphia’s sudden lead.
The hurt didn’t stop there. On the Saints next possession, Reggie White sacked Hebert in the end zone and earned the Eagles a safety. Once the Eagles got the ball back, they drove downfield and kicked another field goal. Adding insult to injury, Allen capped off the heartbreak by intercepting Hebert again and running it in for a final touchdown, securing the 36-20 victory. Tragically, the Eagles outscored the Saints top-ranked defense 29 to zip in the game’s final 20 minutes.
Healing the Heartbreak
This game was a devastating series of events that still lives the memories of almost every Saints fan who witnessed it. The loss would mark the beginning of the end of the Jim Mora era, and the Saints would not return to the playoffs for eight years afterward. The ruin left behind by the Eagles may leave an uneasy feeling in the stomachs of the collective Who Dat Nation. But this year, fans are confident that revenge – and Eagles – are best served creole style.
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