NEW ORLEANS — The drive had a bit of little bit of all the things. Most significantly, it had a variety of New Orleans Saints receiver Michael Thomas.

It took 18 performs, gained 92 yards and lasted 11 minutes, 29 seconds — the longest postseason drive by any group in at the very least 20 years, in accordance to ESPN Stats & Info analysis. It was the longest drive of any Saints game, common season or postseason, in that very same time span.

Ultimately, Thomas’ 2-yard TD catch gave the highest-seeded Saints their first lead of the game and allowed them to hold their Tremendous Bowl hopes alive with a 20-14 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles within the divisional spherical of the NFC playoffs.

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The Saints will host the NFC Championship Game for the second time in franchise historical past subsequent Sunday towards the No. 2-seeded Los Angeles Rams.

“It was powerful. I imply, it was one of many hardest drive I’ve been part of,” Saints guard Larry Warford mentioned of a drive that truly lasted 22 performs and compelled the Saints to achieve a complete of 117 yards due to three offensive penalties and one defensive penalty. “I used to be out of breath getting down there … and all people is drained. However you scent the top zone and you’ll’t give it away. You labored too onerous for it once we had been driving, and we completed it.

“While you begin getting that momentum, these varieties of drives, you scent that vulnerability. You possibly can scent that they’re getting drained. You possibly can see it; you’ll be able to really feel it.”

Saints quarterback Drew Brees laughed when he mentioned somebody informed him they gained 117 yards.

“I’m unsure if that’s a document,” Brees mentioned. “We went on a 117-yard drive to take the lead within the third quarter and actually didn’t look again. That was the turning level the game.”

Sunday’s complete game was mainly a survival for the Saints, who got here out rusty after their first-spherical bye and instantly fell behind 14-Zero thanks to a Brees interception on the primary play of the game and two fast TD drives by the Eagles on their first two possessions.

And it wasn’t comfortably over till Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore got here up together with his second large interception of the game with 1:52 remaining and the Eagles driving towards a possible rating.

Michael Thomas, who led the NFL in receptions this season, had 12 catches for 171 yards Sunday because the Saints superior to the NFC Championship Game. John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports activities

The Saints’ comeback additionally included a profitable pretend punt and a TD go from Brees to Keith Kirkwood on fourth-and-2 within the second quarter for his or her first rating of the game.

But it surely was that historic drive, which just about lasted your entire third quarter, that outlined the Saints’ survival.

They dedicated 4 penalties on the drive, in the event you embrace the holding name on the punt return that made them begin at their very own eight-yard line. And a kind of — a holding name towards left guard Andrus Peat — nullified a possible 46-yard TD go from backup QB Taysom Hill to operating again Alvin Kamara.

However the Saints simply saved on surviving. A 20-yard go from Brees to Thomas on second-and-20. A 20-yard go from Brees to Thomas on third-and-16. A complete of three third-down conversions on the drive. A 15-yard run by Kamara on first-and-15. And the TD go to Thomas, with a defender draped on his again, on first-and-aim from the two.

Saints left deal with Terron Armstead, who simply returned from a lingering pectoral harm, mentioned he didn’t even trouble celebrating with Thomas after the TD catch.

“Hell no. I had to discover the oxygen,” Armstead mentioned. “However the reality we ended that with a landing, it was all value it. Simply having a drive like that, beginning on our eight and simply pushing, pushing, pushing … that was an enormous drive for us going ahead.

“A drive we are able to look again on and simply know we’re succesful.”

Saints coach Sean Payton lauded the group for the struggle it confirmed.

“The third down that Drew converts to Mike was large. There have been too many performs particularly to [review it all]. However we hung in there and fought by means of it, and that was encouraging,” mentioned Payton, who praised Thomas for arising massive but once more. “He’s obtained actual sturdy arms in visitors. He’s powerful and aggressive.

“Man, he’s a kind of gamers who believes he could make these varieties of performs — and Drew did a great job of discovering him. These had been vital performs that actually modified the path of the game.”

Down Yard line Play
1st & 10 NO eight Mark Ingram 1-yard run
2nd & 9 NO 9 Incomplete go; defensive-holding penalty on Eagles
1st & 10 NO 14 Ingram four-yard run
2nd & 6 NO 18 Drew Brees eight-yard go to Ted Ginn Jr.
1st & 10 NO 26 Alvin Kamara 1-yard run
2nd & 9 NO. 27 Brees 11-yard go to Michael Thomas
1st & 10 NO 28 Brees 6-yard go to Keith Kirkwood
2nd & four NO 44 Kamara 1-yard run
third & three NO 45 Brees 9-yard go to Josh Hill
1st & 10 PHI 46 Brees incomplete go
2nd & 10 PHI 46 46-yard TD go referred to as again on holding penalty
2nd & 20 NO 44 Brees 20-yard go to Thomas
1st & 10 PHI 36 Tre’Quan Smith 5-yard run
2nd & 5 PHI 31 Kamara four-yard run
third & 1 PHI 27 Kamara 1-yard run
1st & 10 PHI 26 three-yard go referred to as again on holding penalty
1st & 20 PHI 36 Brees incomplete go
2nd & 20 PJI 36 Brees four-yard go to Kamara
third & 16 PHI 32 Brees 20-yard go to Thomas
1st & 10 PHI 12 False-begin penalty
1st & 15 PHI 17 Kamara 15-yard run
1st & aim PHI 2 Brees 2-yard go to Thomas, landing
ESPN

Thomas, who was named a primary-group All-Professional for the primary time this 12 months, completed the game with 12 catches for 171 yards and the TD.

Who knew he was simply getting warmed up when he set franchise information with 125 catches and 1,405 receiving yards this season?

Though Thomas, nicknamed “Can’t Guard Mike,” mentioned all the precise issues about simply doing his half and doing what the group wanted, he didn’t hesitate when requested if he needs to be outlined by performs like these third-and-16 and second-and-20 catches.

“Oh, each time. Each time. When Drew Brees is again there, if he has guys in his face … I’m gonna give it my all and I’m gonna make these performs for my teammates,” Thomas mentioned. “I wished to show to him that if he let the ball go, then I’d maintain myself.

“And even on that massive drive, the place it backed up, I informed him, ‘I’ll take over this complete drive for you proper now.’ And that’s what I did.”

Thomas mentioned it looks like he and Brees have simply been constructing their connection each week.

“Once we’re on the market, we really feel like nobody can cease us,” Thomas mentioned. “I’ve his again, he has my again, we’ve got one another’s again. We simply have a factor, and it’s gonna be onerous for groups to cease.”

Thomas’ earlier finest second of the season got here towards the Rams the final time they had been within the Superdome, in Week 9, when he made the game-clinching, 72-yard TD catch in a 45-35 win and pulled a mobile phone out from below the aim submit as his celebration.

It will likely be fascinating to see what he has deliberate for an encore subsequent week.

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