American Football: McAllister leads Saints to heavenly victory

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Deuce McAllister and rookie sensation Reggie Bush gave this battered city a reason to throw itself a party, carrying the New Orleans Saints where they've never been before - one game from the Super Bowl.

The Saints used an assortment of spectacular plays to beat the Philadelphia Eagles 27-24 on Saturday and become the first team in NFL history to make a conference championship after losing 13 or more games the previous season.

All season long, the Saints have been at the heart of New Orleans' revival from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Now, the franchise best known for four decades of failure, the 'Aints and fans wearing paper bags, is on the verge of being the toast of the NFC.

New Orleans (11-6) will play at Chicago or host Seattle, depending on the outcome of the other NFC division round game Sunday.

It was the veteran McAllister with his two touchdowns and team playoff mark of 143 yards rushing, and the rookie Bush with his collection of magnificent moves, that made the difference in the raucous Superdome.

Quarterback Jeff Garcia's run of success for the Eagles (11-7) ended, but he combined with former Saints receiver Donte' Stallworth on an Eagles-record 75-yard touchdown in the first half. Brian Westbrook rushed for 116 yards and scored twice, including a franchise playoff-record 62-yard run.

Colts 15, Ravens 6

At Baltimore, Adam Vinatieri, signed during the offseason for his playoff experience, kicked five field goals to put his name in the NFL record book and carry the Indianapolis Colts past the Baltimore Ravens.

Although unspectacular, Peyton Manning was efficient enough to make up for some of his previous playoff failures and keep alive his hope of playing in the Super Bowl for the first time. All he needed to do was get the Colts close enough for Vinatieri, who did the rest.

It was only the fourth playoff game in NFL history - and first since 1979 - that neither team scored a touchdown.

Vinatieri, who won two Super Bowls with late field goals and scored 117 points in the postseason for New England, was signed by Indianapolis in the offseason. He justified the acquisition with a flawless performance against the Ravens, connecting on field goal tries of 23, 42, 51, 48 and 35 yards. The fourth kick gave him an NFL-record 33 career postseason field goals.

Indianapolis (14-4) never trailed in eliminating the No. 2-seeded Ravens (13-4), who were coming off a first-round bye and poised to extract a measure of revenge against the franchise that broke the hearts of Baltimore fans by sneaking out of the city to Indianapolis in March 1984.

Manning finished 15-of-30 for 170 yards and improved his career playoff record to 5-6. The third-seeded Colts will next face the winner of Sunday's game between San Diego and New England.

Steve McNair was 18-of-29 for only 173 yards, and Baltimore managed only two field goals by Matt Stover in its first playoff game since 2003.