Two months ago, the Eagles were thrashed 48-7 by the Saints at the Superdome, the heaviest-ever loss suffered by a reigning Super Bowl champion.
That brutal shellacking remains seared into the memory of the Eagles, who have since resurrected their season to reach the playoffs and score a thrilling wild card win over Chicago last Sunday.
Several Eagles players voiced unhappiness at the conduct of the Saints during November’s rout, accusing New Orleans of piling up the points and celebrating each touchdown just a little too gleefully.
“They ran up the score. We wanted them again, we got them again,” Eagles tackle Jason Peters said. “This time, hey, we coming. It’s definitely not going to be the same outcome.”
The Eagles will be strengthened by the presence of several players who missed November’s lop-sided loss.
Foles, who steered the Eagles to victory in last season’s Super Bowl, once again proved his aptitude for the big occasion with last Sunday’s 16-15 win over the much-fancied Bears at Soldier Field.
Foles said the resilience of the Eagles had come to the fore following their humiliating mid-season defeat to the Saints.
“It wasn’t a good game for us but the thing that impresses me about my team is even in those moments, we still stuck together,” Foles said.
– ‘Motivated as ever’ –
Whether the rejuvenated Eagles defense can contain the evergreen Saints quarterback Drew Brees remains to be seen, however.
Brees, who will be playing his last game before turning 40 next week, is enjoying a stellar season which has seen him overtake Peyton Manning on the all-time list of passing yard leaders.
The 39-year-old has warned his younger teammates that November’s 48-7 drubbing of the Eagles will have little bearing on Sunday’s Divisional Round clash, where a win would leave the Saints with a home NFC championship against either the Dallas Cowboys or Los Angeles Rams for a place in the Super Bowl.
“They’ll come in as motivated as ever,” Brees said of the Eagles.
“Just like we’re going to come in as motivated as ever. So I don’t think anything that happened previously has any bearing on this game. Just two really good teams about the play in a playoff game.”
In the AFC side of the draw, the New England Patriots must overcome the threat of the Los Angeles Chargers and Philip Rivers if they are to keep alive their hopes of becoming the first team since the 1991-1994 Buffalo Bills to reach three consecutive Super Bowls.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, 41, says he sees similarities between himself and Rivers, 37, heading into Sunday’s showdown at Foxborough.
“He’s kind of like me,” Brady said. “He wants the ball out of his hands. He kind of wants to be able to anticipate coverages. He’s got really a great group of skill players — backs, tight ends, receivers. They’re playing as well as any offense that’s played all season.”
Rivers, meanwhile, heads into the game desperate to improve a dismal record against the Patriots.
The Chargers quarterback is 1-7 in games against New England, and has lost on all four previous visits to Foxborough. He has also never beaten Brady in a head-to-head meeting.
The Chargers suggested, however, they may have a tougher mental make-up this year after grinding out a 23-17 road win against Baltimore in the wild card round.
Rivers, though, is mindful of the threat posed by Brady, who has averaged more than 300 passing yards in his previous eight games against the Chargers.
“You think about all the different teammates that have come in and out of that building, and he’s still playing at the highest level,” Rivers said of Brady this week.
“We know that this is when he and this team have always been the best.”