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Playoffs Becoming Possible After Eagles Win First Home Game, Second Straight

Philadelphia beat the New Orleans Saints and are 5-6 heading into back-to-back games in New York, against the Giants and Jets, over the next two weeks
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PHILADELPHIA – Now, it’s time to talk playoffs with a serious face.

The Eagles took a big step toward a potential postseason bid by doing something they hadn’t done all year – win a home game and win two straight games.

They achieved both in a 40-29 win over the undermanned New Orleans Saints at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.

"I think it was a good, physical game," said head coach Nick Sirianni, whose team put up 242 yards rushing against the NFL's top-ranked run defense. "That’s something that we really wanted to do is be physical in this game. I thought our guys really showed that."

Jalen Hurts scored three rushing touchdowns, including a 24-yarder that was the best of the lot. Hurts broke up the middle then made plenty of moves this way and that before sprinting toward the corner of the end zone.

The score, which came with 3:59 left in the game, allowed the crowd to breathe easier after the Saints had pulled to within 33-22 with 7:14 to play, having scored touchdowns in a span of 2:16 early in the fourth after falling behind 33-7 heading into the final quarter.

"We’re a dang good football team and it’s taken some growth, it’s taken a lot," said Hurts. "And we’re still evolving, we’re still growing, we’re still learning from a lot of different things. 

"We just want to continue to control the controllables. Continue to connect with one another and know that everybody has each other’s backs out there in the field, and continue to move forward with that mentality of ‘rent is due every day.’ That’s the identity of this football team.”

A big play on that drive was a 23-yard completion to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside on second-and-11. It was Arcega-Whiteside’s first catch of the season.

For some reason, with the Eagles reeling a bit, Saints coach Sean Payton opted for a 28-yard field goal with 7:14 to play rather than try for a first down from the Eagles’ 10 on fourth-and-seven.

It was the fifth time this year the Eagles have scored at least 30 points, a season after not reaching that plateau at all. They are 4-1 in those games.

Jake Elliott made all four of his field goal tries, including one from 50 and another from 47. Elliott is perfect on kicks from 50-plus yards this season on all three attempts.

The defense forced three turnovers. The big one was a pick-6 from cornerback Darius Slay who ran 51 yards into the end zone with 24 seconds left in the first half to make the score 27-7 at halftime.

It was the second straight game Slay has scored a TD, coming off his backbreaking 83-yard scoop-and-score fumble return in last week’s 30-13 win over the Denver Broncos. It was Slay’s career-high third defensive score of the season.

Slay, however, was in concussion protocol by the end of the game, one of four players the Eagles lost to injury in the game. The others were linebackers Davion Taylor (knee) and Shaun Bradley (shoulder) and RB Jordan Howard (knee).

Linebacker T.J. Edwards had an interception and a fumble recovery on a fumble forced by Fletcher Cox. Edwards had 10 tackles, seven of which were solos.

"It was honestly reading the quarterback’s eyes and I saw the over out coming behind me," Edwards said, explaining his second career interception. "You know, just making a play on the football, but the rush was getting there so we knew we had to get it out quick. So yeah, just made the play, so everything was locked up and he had no other choice but to try to fit it in. We finally got one and it felt good.”

The win upped the Eagles’ record to 5-6 and they now own playoff tiebreakers over three teams expected to be in the hunt for the final wildcard spot – the Atlanta Falcons, the Carolina Panthers, and now the Saints.

"That's not what we should be thinking about right now," said RB Miles Sanders. "It's just that these last games are in our division and if we win them all, we're going to be in the playoffs. That's not going to leave my brain. But we're going to take it one game at a time."

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The Eagles will next turn their attention to the Frank Sinatra portion of their schedule: New York, New York, with visits to MetLife Stadium to play the Giants on the Sunday after Thanksgiving and the Jets the following week.

The Saints, who were playing without both starting offensive tackles, Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead, as well as RB Alvin Kamara, lost their third straight game. It’s the first time that has happened since they dropped their first three to start the 2016 season.

New Orleans (5-5) brought with them the top-ranked run defense in the NFL.

The Eagles, who entered as with the league’s third-best rushing attack, averaging 144.5 yards per game, never blinked, ripping it to shreds.

They put up 152 in the first half alone and ended the game with 242 on 50 runs. It was their third game in the last four that they’ve topped 200 yards rushing.

It was the same formula the Eagles used to beat the Saints last year, 24-21, on Dec. 13 when New Orleans came to Philadelphia in possession of one of the best run defenses in the league and owners of the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

That was also the last time the Eagles had won a home game.

Hurts scored a pair of rushing touchdowns in the first half, from 1 and 3 yards, and Jake Elliott booted a pair of field goals, including a 50-yarder, in the first half.

Elliott's 16 points were a career-high. He now has 478 career points, vaulting him into third place on the team's all-time scoring list behind David Akers (1,323) and Bobby Walston (881).

“I did not know that, but it’s pretty cool," said Elliott. "I think there a couple of guys ahead of me for which I have a long way to go, but being named with any of those guys is an honor and I’m happy to be there.”

Hurts completed 13 passes in 24 attempts for 147 yards and was sacked three times.

Dallas Goedert was a big target. The tight end who signed a lucrative contract extension just two days earlier to keep in Philadelphia through 2025, finished with five catches for 62 yards. Three of those receptions came on third down to keep drives alive.

Rookie WR DeVonta Smith also flashed, with four catches for 61 yards.

Hurts had 69 yards rushing on 18 runs.

Howard, who suffered a knee injury with 9:20 to play in the third quarter, had 63 yards on 10 carries.

Sanders, who was activated from IR, and was playing his first game since Oct. 24, ran 16 times for 94 yards. He had a costly fumble in the second quarter, however, losing the ball at the 6.

The Saints scored on an 18-yard throw to Adam Trautman to pull within 14-7.

The Eagles had a 14-0 lead on two TD runs from Hurts in the first quarter, the first from one yard, the second from three yards.

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.