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Posted: Friday, 03 January 2014 12:31AM

Saints and Eagles expect tough game



 Nick Foles grew up idolizing Drew Brees and followed in his footsteps when he played quarterback at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas.

Brees has already won a Super Bowl, but Foles will be playing in his first playoff game Saturday night when his Philadelphia Eagles meet a New Orleans Saints team that will be looking to win on the road in the postseason for the first time in franchise history.

"He's a guy I've watched and learned from," Foles said. "He's done a lot of great things throughout his career, on and off the field, and he's a great role model for fellow players, kids and adults."

Foles, who is 10 years younger than Brees, led the NFC East champion Eagles (10-6) to the playoffs for the first time since the 2010 season. The second-year quarterback went 8-2 as the starter and appeared in 13 games, throwing 27 touchdowns to just two interceptions. His 0.6 interception percentage led the league among quarterbacks who played in more than half of their team's games.

Playing in first-year coach Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense, Foles was terrific down the stretch. He completed 74.5 percent of his passes over the final two weeks of the season and passed for 263 yards and two touchdowns in the finale Sunday night as Philadelphia won 24-22 in Dallas to clinch the division title.

The Eagles are also led by LeSean McCoy, who topped the NFL with 1,607 rushing yards while catching 52 passes for 539 yards for a league-best 2,146 scrimmage yards. DeSean Jackson caught 82 passes for 1,332 yards and nine TDs.

Those threats made Philadelphia's offense difficult for opponents to figure out. The team led the NFC with 247 plays of 10 or more yards.

However, the Eagles will be in for a tough test against a Saints defense that was efficient in limiting big plays, allowing only five touchdowns of 20 or more yards to rank second in the conference.

"They're a talented group," Foles said. "They're going to mix it up with their coverages. They're going to try to put pressure on you at times and they're going to try to get to you.

"I think the key to that is that we have to recognize as a team when they're trying to put pressure on. As the quarterback, I have to recognize which coverage they want to play and what pressure (they're going to bring), and that's what this week of preparation is all about. We're trying to figure out what they're going to do, and I'm sure they'll have new things ready to go for us."

Brees had another terrific season in leading the Saints (11-5) to a wild-card berth, ranking only behind Denver's Peyton Manning with 5,162 yards and 39 touchdowns.

An issue for the team, though, was its troubles away from New Orleans. The Saints went 8-0 while averaging 34.0 points at home compared to 3-5 while scoring 17.8 per game on the road.

The Saints lost their final three road games, getting outscored 78-36, and are 0-5 all-time in playoff contests away from home.

"We're in the postseason. That's all that matters," said outside linebacker Junior Galette, who had 12 sacks. "It gives us a chance to go get a ring, so that's it."

Brees will likely need to carry the load because the Eagles defense is strong against the run. Philadelphia allowed just 3.77 yards per carry, the lowest average among playoff teams.

New Orleans ranked 25th with 92.1 rushing yards per game and 26th with 3.8 per carry. Pierre Thomas led the team with 549 yards on the ground, while tight end Jimmy Graham caught 86 passes for 1,215 yards and an NFL-best 16 touchdowns.

"We're going to watch film and really study these guys and get ready for a tough, physical game because we already know that when it comes to playoff time, all games are going to be tough, all games are going to be physical," Thomas said. "So we know we're going to have our hands full with these guys coming after us, and we're definitely going to come after them."

Brees is 5-3 in the playoffs with New Orleans, completing 66.2 percent of his passes while throwing 20 touchdowns to only three interceptions. His first postseason victory with the Saints was 27-24 over Philadelphia on Jan. 13, 2007.

In his only game in Philadelphia as a member of the Saints, Brees threw for 311 yards and three touchdowns in a 48-22 win Sept. 20, 2009.

The Eagles won their last four at home this season and are 3-1 in their past four playoff games at Lincoln Financial Field.

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