The Philadelphia Eagles should have been all set for a season-saving win over the New Orleans Saints on Nov. 5. Eagles fans like myself complain about our lack of defense and lack of effort to even try a running game, yet the Saints are even worse on those ends. Therefore, as long as Philadelphia could somewhat contain Drew Brees, a win over New Orleans seemed very likely – and yet the Birds couldn’t even do that.
The Saints hadn’t held anyone to under 24 points all year and had lost starting running back Darren Sproles for this game. But despite all of that working in the Eagles favor, they still only scored 13 points and let three Saints’ running backs be productive anyway, en route to an inexplicable 28-13 loss.
The scapegoats for this game will be Michael Vick, Brent Celek and the Eagles’ pathetic red zone performance. But leaving aside the interception that went for a 98-yard touchdown, Celek’s fumble to end the Eagles’ last real hope and an 0-for-4 red zone performance, Philadelphia also lost because it let New Orleans have things it never has – a defense and a running game.
The Saints had never shut down anyone on defense, and they technically didn’t really stop the Eagles that much. Philadelphia gained almost 450 yards on offense and even racked up 221 rushing yards, which is unheard of for this team. But nevertheless, the Eagles still got a grand total of 13 points because they let the Saints look like a real defensive unit in the red zone – if nowhere else.
The Saints also had rare production on the ground, although their stats were less overwhelming. LeSean McCoy, Michael Vick and even Bryce Brown all outran the Saints’ three replacements for Sproles, and yet New Orleans’ rushes did more damage. Chris Ivory, Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram all rushed for over 50 yards, had a big run or two during touchdown drives, and made sure Brees didn’t have to be his usual one-man show.
That almost never happens in New Orleans, but Philadelphia helped make it happen. Because the Eagles let the Saints do a bunch of things they’ve never done this season, it did as much to kill them as the failed red zone drives did.
When a team like the Eagles makes a 2-5 club look better than it has all year, it usually has no right to win anyway. Philadelphia gave up that right repeatedly in the red zone, but that wasn’t the only way it destroyed itself – for this game and for this almost-dead season.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Eagles since he was eight years old.
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