It was the most dominating quarter in Eagles history.
And one of the most dominating quarters in NFL playoff history.
The Eagles trailed the Saints by 10 points 4½ minutes into the fourth quarter.
They led by 16 with two minutes left.
That’s a 26-point turnaround in 8½ minutes.
The last time the Saints lost a playoff game at the Superdome was Jan. 3, 1993, when the Rich Kotite Eagles went to New Orleans and scored 26 points in the fourth quarter to win 36-20 in a wild-card game.
It was the only playoff win in an Eagles uniform for Reggie White, Eric Allen, Seth Joyner, Clyde Simmons and several other all-time great Eagles.
The free agent exodus sparked by Norman Braman’s refusal to offer Reggie White a competitive contract in the early days of free agency would begin soon.
But for one day in New Orleans — or really 8½ minutes of one day — the nucleus that Buddy Ryan built before getting fired two years earlier finally lived up to its vast potential.
Today, 26 years later, the 26 points the Eagles scored that day remains the most ever scored in the fourth quarter of an NFL postseason game.
And the Eagles remain one of only five teams in NFL history to win a playoff game on the road after trailing by 10 or more points going into the fourth quarter.
It was the greatest postseason collapse in Saints history and the greatest comeback in Eagles postseason history. Even though it wasn’t the greatest comeback in the NFL that day (earlier, Frank Reich rallied the Bills from a 35-3 deficit to a 41-38 win over the Oilers).
Here’s how it happened:
Randall Cunningham’s 57-yard TD pass to Fred Barnett late in the first quarter tied the game at 7-all, but the Saints then scored 13 straight points on two Morten Andersen field goals and a Bobby Hebert TD pass to Quinn Early to take a 20-7 lead late in the third quarter.
Roger Ruzek’s field goal at the end of the quarter made it 20-10 going into the final 15 minutes, but It did not look good for the visitors.
The 4th quarter began with the Saints facing a 3rd-and-1 on their own 29-yard line. Hebert tried to hit Kelvin Martin over the middle, but the pass fell incomplete and after Tommy Barnhardt’s punt and Vai Sikahema’s 12-yard return, the Eagles started at their own 36.
That’s when the landslide began.
Randall went 5 for 6 on that drive, converting all three third downs and bringing the Eagles within three points with his second long TD of the game to Barnett, a 35-yarder with 10:37 left.
On the Saints’ next play, Joyner picked off Hebert and returned it 14 yards to the 26. Just five plays later, Heath Sherman ran six yards for a TD and a 24-20 lead with 6:48 left.
A penalty and a loss of three on a screen pass to Vaughn Dunbar left the Saints with a 3rd-and-23 on their own 7 when White beat Richard Cooper — who years later would join the Eagles as a free agent — and sacked Hebert in the end zone for a safety with 5:36 left.
The Eagles got the ball right back on a free kick, and after four Heath Sherman runs netted 33 yards, Ruzek hit another field goal to make it 29-20 with 2:36 left.
On the Saints’ second play of their next drive, Eric Allen stepped in front of Saints receiver Wesley Carroll and picked off Hebert and ran untouched into the end zone for a 36-20 lead with 2:17 left.
In the span of just 18 offensive plays by the Eagles and Saints, the Eagles had scored 26 points.
The win was the Eagles’ first in a postseason game since the 1980 NFC Championship Game over Dallas and their first on the road since the 1949 NFL Championship Game in Los Angeles.
Some facts and figures about that game:
• Road teams entering the fourth quarter trailing by 10 or more points are 5-187 in NFL postseason history.
• After the Eagles in 1992, it was another 25 years until another road team came back from 10 points down after three quarters — that was the Titans beating Andy Reid’s Chiefs 22-21 at Arrowhead after trailing 21-10 going into the fourth quarter.
• The Eagles’ 26 points at the time were a franchise record for any game. They’ve since scored 28 twice in a fourth quarter — against the Giants in 2010, the DeSean Jackson punt return game — and against the Lions and coach Jim Schwartz in 2013.
• Allen’s pick-six was the last one the Eagles had in a postseason game until Asante Samuel in 2008 against the Vikings.
• The Eagles’ 26-point scoring margin in that fourth quarter is the largest in NFL history in a fourth quarter but not the Eagles’ biggest postseason margin in a quarter. In their 58-37 wild-card win over the Lions in 1995, they outscored Detroit 31-0 in the second quarter.
• From the time Ruzek’s field goal made it 20-10 to the time Allen’s pick-six made it 36-20, the Saints netted minus-one yard of offense while the Eagles were scoring 29 points.
• Four members of that 1992 Eagles team currently work in the media — Seth Joyner with NBC Sports Philadelphia, Brian Baldinger with NFL Network, Mike Golic with ESPN radio and Vai Sikahema with NBC 10 in Philly.
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