New Orleans Saints: Top news and video clips (Post Playoff Edition)

New Orleans (14-4) committed a whopping five turnovers, lost a valuable offensive weapon (running back Pierre Thomas) to a head injury in the first quarter and rallied from deficits of 17-0, 20-14, 23-17, and 29-24 to take a 32-29 advantage with 1:37 left. And in 88 seconds, they gave back all they’d taken away, their season ending as suddenly and jolting as running into a brick wall.

Drew Brees overcame five New Orleans turnovers and a 17-point deficit to put the Saints on the brink of their first road playoff victory in franchise history. He could only watch as Alex Smith and the San Francisco 49ers stole it away in the closing seconds, ending the Saints’ chances at another Super Bowl run. Brees capped his record-setting season by throwing for 462 yards and four touchdowns, throwing two go-ahead strikes in the final 5 minutes only to see the 49ers rally for a 36-32 playoff victory Saturday.

49ers Stun Saints, Patriots Rout Broncos.

The 49ers’ defense stonewalled the Saints, creating five turnovers to key a thrilling 36-32 victory.

Another year of draft evaluations are upon us with the NFL playoffs down to the final eight. The two topics merge into one here as the same players that were becoming household names last year at this time are now finishing their first NFL season, with several playing integral parts in their team’s postseason success. I’ll look at two rookies, one from each team in each playoff game and see how they might play a crucial part in this weekend’s games.

“I never felt so good about a team ever,” tackle Jermon Bushrod said. “So yeah, it felt like ’09. It felt like we had everything going for us. And to have our season end the way that it did. The way we were able to go out there and put our better foot forward (late in the game), it just hurts. It hurts, man.”

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Tags: 2012 NFC Divisional Round Aaron Brooks Aaron Kromer Aldon Smith Alex Smith Calvin Johnson Dennis Allen Detroit Lions Drew Brees Gregg Williams Hurricane Katrina Jabari Greer Jeff Fisher Jim Haslett Justin Smith Lance Moore Matchup Matthew Stafford Mercedes-Benz Superdome Mickey Loomis NaVorro Bowman New Orleans Saints New Orleans Saints 2005 Season NFC NFC Divisional Round NFL Patrick Willis Rick Reiprish San Francisco 49′ers Sean Payton St. Louis Rams Tom Benson