The Panthers dared Saints QB Brees to beat them, and he did

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Life comes at you fast.

The story of the New Orleans Saints' surprisingly successful season was the long-awaited emergence of the roster around Drew Brees, after the star quarterback had nearly single-handedly led New Orleans to so many successful campaigns in the past.

In a season where the big stories were about the Saints offense relying less on Drew Brees and more on a power running game featuring Alvin Kamara and Ingram, Sunday was about Drew Brees reminding everyone he's still unbelievable at 38 years old. Matt Ryan passed for 218 yards and hit Julio Jones for an 8-yard touchdown with 5:48 to play to lead the defending NFC champion Falcons (11-6) past the Los Angeles Rams 26-13 in the wild-card round.

Newton threw for 349 yards, his second highest total of the year, including a 56-yard touchdown pass to running back Christian McCaffrey that brought the Panthers within five with 4:09 to go.

"Yeah, you know, Carolina picked him up so the brothers could reunite", Jordan said.

On Josh Hill's impact during the game: "Yeah". The Panthers punted after Anderson's incomplete pass on third down, and Newton appeared to be quickly cleared to play again following tests by the team's medical staff. Michael Thomas caught eight passes for 131 yards, including a 46-yarder that set up Kamara's short TD run in the fourth quarter. When you remember Brees is 38 years old it becomes damn near magical. The timing and placement of the throw with pressure in Brees' face are otherworldly.

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"Clearly he's trying to be more of a pocket passer and I'm OK with it", Jordan said at the time. "He is still Drew Brees". We have been telling you that he is the best quarterback in the league.

Ted Ginn started the game off right for the Saints.

Brees" performance was one of his truly great games as a Saint when you consider Carolina did everything to stop the Saints running game short of hanging a neon sign "No Running Inside Today.' It made me wish I chose to pay for a ridiculously priced late plane ticket to see it in person.

Speaking of whom: Gruden will remain in the ESPN booth for the Titans-Chiefs game, which is just ... weird. I hate to be all boring and ignore the possibility of another day of exciting upsets, but I have to go with the experts on this one also.

Payton said he didn't think that the Panthers were testing Brees. They live to be aggressive. They have all this stuff going on.

If the National Football League is honest about protecting the long-term health and safety of its players - or even just wants the appearance of it - it needs to dock the Panthers a draft pick.

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"We made enough plays, offensively", Saints coach Sean Payton said.

"It wasn't my head, it was my eye". In every big playoff moment since 2006, the Saints have either succeeded or failed attacking for the win.

The 2017 Saints season is now officially an unqualified success. They weren't even able to come back and beat Tampa Bay during the last game of the season after blowing a lead.

The Chiefs jumped out to a 14-0 lead over the Titans in the first quarter and looked even more in control as they took a 21-3 lead into halftime.

Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston.

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