Special teams played a major factor in the Eagles' 48-22 loss to the Saints Sunday.
To see just how many mistakes were made by this unit, I went back and re-watched every special teams play. Here's a rundown, error by error:
Mishap 1 - Sean Jones, in his first action with the Eagles, is called for a holding penalty, which sets the Eagles back to their own 15 yard line. To Jones' credit, he did make a nice tackle on the Eagles' opening kickoff.
Mishap 2 - DeSean Jackson calls for a fair catch, but (surprise) a flag on the play. This one on Chris Clemons for unnecessary roughness. A 15-yard personal foul -- half the distance to the goal, giving the Eagles' offense the ball at their own 12 yard line. So on the Eagles' first two possessions they started at their own 15 and their own 12. Not exactly helping out a QB making his first career start.
Mishap 3 - Still in the first quarter, mind you, the Eagles are called for an illegal shift on a punt. Joselio Hanson and Quintin Mikell are the players targeted by the official. Sav Rocca's first punt was a good one, a 57-yarder, which would have given the Saints possession at their own 30 yard line. But he was asked to re-kick. And the second one was ugly. It went just 34 yards and gave New Orleans the ball at its own 47. A huge penalty. A difference of 17 yards. The Saints ended up with a field goal on the ensuing drive.
Mishap 4 - I wrote this one down while watching the game. Not a smart play by Jackson. With the score tied at 10, the Eagles were set to receive the punt with 1:57 left in the first half. Jackson backpedaled and fielded it at his own 4 yard line, an obvious no-no. If he lets it go, maybe the Saints down the ball inside the 5. But way more likely, the ball bounces into the end zone and the offense starts at its own 20. Jackson's teammates, undoubtedly surprised at his decision, delivered two blocks in the back. One on Clemons (mentioned above) and the other on Leonard Weaver. The Eagles' offense ended up beginning the drive at its own 3 yard line and went three-and-out. The Saints wisely used their timeouts and got another shot from their own 46 with 1:20 left. It took Brees all of two plays to get in the end zone from there.
Mishap 5 - I wrote about this one right after the game, and it was a momentum-shifter. Ellis Hobbs fumbled the opening kickoff at the start of the second half. It was a good play by Saints rookie Malcolm Jenkins, but it goes without saying that you have to do a better job of protecting the football.
Mishap 6 - It was just comical at this point. With the Eagles trailing, 31-13, in the third quarter, Tracy White was called for holding on a kickoff return. Half the distance to the goal (a commonly used term Sunday). By the way, White is on the roster because of his skills on special teams. That should tell you what kind of day it was for this unit.
Mishap 7 - Hobbs took a third-quarter kickoff 63 yards. Why is this a mishap, you ask? Because his celebration afterwards was so over the top it was beyond ridiculous. I'm generally in favor of players expressing themselves and celebrating, but time and place, people. The Eagles were down 34-13, and Hobbs' earlier fumble changed the complexion of the game. Hobbs pointed to himself and jumped around, but it looked like his teammates knew better. They offered high fives, but nothing more. And if you listen to the fans, it's as if they don't know exactly how to react. Most likely sharing the same reaction as me.
Mishap 8 - Rocca's worst punt of the day drew boos from the frustrated crowd at the Linc. Any time the camera follows the punt and then stops around midfield, you know it's probably not a very good one. This punt went just 26 yards, out of bounds to the Saints' 48 yard line.
So there you have it. Overall six penalties (one declined), a turnover, a costly decision not to let the ball go in the end zone, an ill-advised celebration and two terrible punts.
Unbelievable that they were able to fit so much into one game.
Keep in mind that the Saints' special teams were terrible in Week 1 against the Lions. They allowed a big punt return, a big kickoff return, fumbled a punt and had a field goal blocked. I really thought the Eagles had an edge here going in.
Special teams coach Ted Daisher seemed to really be taking this unit in the right direction during training camp, but it's clear he has a lot of work to do.