PHILADELPHIA - Someone handed Drew Brees a stats booklet, and shortly after the New Orleans Saints removed a certain historical stain from the franchise's playoff dossier with a down-to-the-wire number on the Philadelphia Eagles, the half-dressed, marquee quarterback stood at his locker peering intently at the pages.
What's popping out at you, Drew?
"Third downs," Brees told USA TODAY Sports. "Red zone."
And the 5 yards per carry?
"Yeah, that too," he said.
The Saints won their first road playoff game in franchise history, and it's been a long time coming. The franchise began playing in 1967.
Well, it finally happened. But for all of Brees' record-breaking exploits over the years - stuff like being the only passer in NFL history to own four 5,000-yard seasons - the Saints were a bit out of character in achieving the milestone with a 26-24 nail-biter Saturday night.
Brees did not pop out on the stat sheet with some 400-yard, five-TD game as he is prone to do when they are playing back in the Big Easy. He threw for a modest 250 yards, with one TD.
Instead of sizzle, the Saints won with blood and guts. Dirt and mud. They controlled the line of scrimmage. They pounded the rock.
New Orleans rushed for 185 yards - their second-highest total of the season behind a 242-yard mashing of the Dallas Cowboys in November - with former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram leading the way with 97 yards and an undrafted rookie named Khiry Robinson providing the finishing runs.
The Saints won with a defense that gang-tackled to shut down the NFL's No. 1 rushing attack and kept the big plays to a minimum. They won with special teams, including four field goals from the 14th-year veteran kicker who joined the team three weeks ago. And Shayne Graham nailed the game-winning, 32-yarder as time expired to send them to Seattle for another crack at the Seahawks in the divisional round.
Shoot, Brees threw two picks to leave them minus-two on the turnover chart, and they still won.
The stats told just part of the story.
"A complete team victory," Brees said.
They can exhale now. In addition to the oh-fer road playoff mark, the Saints ended the regular season with three consecutive road losses. So those two facts converged with the questions about domed teams playing outdoors, the chilly weather and any other negative expectation to suggest they were doomed in coming to The Linc, where it was 25 degrees at kickoff.
Now they know what they thought they knew.
"Like I told those players, you carry your history," coach Sean Payton said, referring to the historical patterns as outside noise. "So I get it. We understand that, and that's the stereotype. Sometimes it comes with a team that plays inside, and we can't change that. We kind of like the environment that we play in, and we traveled pretty well tonight."
The Saints followed Payton's lead in making light of the road woes, even though the club clearly struggled away from the Superdome with a 3-5 mark. Still, they suggested that they would change the flavor of the Gatorade. And there was talk of demanding to have Popeye's chicken on the chartered flight, because that's what worked during their Super Bowl run after the 2009 season.
Of course, even with tongue in cheek, the idea was to change the result.
On Saturday night, though, they also came through with the type of game that changes perceptions.
"We're a physical team," general manager Mickey Loomis told USA TODAY Sports as he made the rounds congratulating players. "People don't think so because we have such a prolific passing team. But we've been physical for the last three or four years. People don't understand that, but we are."
Now it's about proving it with consistency.
"This was a confidence boost," linebacker Curtis Lofton told USA TODAY Sports.
He knows. Confidence comes with achievement. The Saints have had some tough road losses this season. They were blown out in Seattle. And lost in the final seconds at both New England and Carolina.
This time, New Orleans won the type of close road game that previously slipped away.
Brees mentioned the red zone stat, and it was nothing to brag about. The Saints scored one TD on four trips inside the Eagles' 20-yard line. But it was that kind of night. They scrapped.
With Brees' two first-half picks, they felt lucky to trail by only a point, 7-6, at the half.
The quarterback also mentioned the third-down conversions, and that, too, was revealing. The Saints defense limited the Eagles to 3-for-12 on third downs. The offense converted seven of 13. But on the final, 10-play, game-winning drive, it kept the chains moving with a pair of third-and-1 quarterback sneaks. It wasn't pretty. It was Brees playing physical, sticking his nose into the line because that's what was needed at the moment.
On one plunge, Brees even gained 5 yards on a sneak.
Reminded of this, Brees cracked, "The O-line was pushing. I was just riding on their back."
Sometimes, that's how you win. Whatever it takes.