NEW ORLEANS -- Deuce McAllister delivered on the promise his more-celebrated running mate made before this season, carrying the New Orleans Saints where they've never been before -- one game from the Super Bowl.
McAllister and rookie sensation Reggie Bush led the Saints past the Philadelphia Eagles, 27-24, yesterday and into the NFC championship game, a reversal of fortune for the team and the city.
To constant chants of "Deuce!" or "Reg-gie! Reg-gie!" the Saints rallied with an assortment of big plays that even featured backup tight end Billy Miller, a rarely used target. But 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.
All season, 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, for the 'Aints and fans wearing paper bags, will either play at Chicago or host Seattle, depending on the outcome of the other NFC division round game today.
Drew Brees lobbed an 11-yard touchdown pass to McAllister and the Saints took a 27-21 lead after three quarters.
Brian Westbrook had two touchdown runs and Jeff Garcia threw a 75-yard TD pass to Donte' Stallworth, but the Eagles' defense couldn't stop the NFL's top-ranked offense.
On the go-ahead drive, Bush nearly committed the game's first turnover when Jeremiah Trotter forced him to fumble after a short gain on second-and-15. But wideout Terrance Copper fell on the bouncing ball for a first down at the Philadelphia 49.
After a sack by Trent Cole was negated by a penalty on Dhani Jones, McAllister went over 100 yards rushing with a 23-yard gain to the Eagles 11. He scored on a screen pass on the next play.
Making their first postseason appearance in six years, the Saints received a rousing ovation from the frenzied, black-and-gold clad fans inside the Louisiana Superdome. Long before kickoff, the raucous sellout crowd started its familiar chant of "Who dat say they gonna beat dem Saints!"
The streaking Eagles were hoping they'd be up to the task.
On the third play of the third quarter, Westbrook silenced the fans when he burst untouched into the secondary and raced down the right sideline for 62 yards. Safety Josh Bullocks caught up to Westbrook at the 5, but couldn't bring him down as the Eagles took a 21-13 lead.
It was the longest run in team playoff history. Westbrook had a 49-yard touchdown run in last Sunday's 23-20 wild-card win over the New York Giants. Before he scored, Westbrook had just 17 total yards on eight touches against the Saints.
But New Orleans answered a touchdown with one of its own for the second time in the game. McAllister plowed up the middle from the 5 to cap a 63-yard drive and cut the deficit to 21-20.