Why did the Eagles lose, 48-7, to the Saints on Sunday in New Orleans? Here are five reasons.
The Eagles' injury situation in their defensive secondary went from severe to hide the women and children early in Sunday's game against Drew Brees and the Saints.
They went in without their two starting cornerbacks (Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills) and one of their starting safeties (Rodney McLeod). Corner Sidney Jones returned after missing three games with a hamstring injury, but he got hurt again and played just 22 snaps. Safety/nickel corner Avonte Maddox suffered a knee injury in the second quarter and didn't return.
Jim Schwartz found himself trying to protect the end zone from Brees with guys such as 2017 third-round disappointment Rasul Douglas (51 snaps), Chandon Sullivan (26 snaps), Cre'Von LeBlanc (44 snaps), and De'Vante Bausby (24).
Next man up? Yeah, right.
LeBlanc and Bausby weren't even with the team two weeks ago. Sullivan was on the practice squad for the first eight weeks of the season and played his first NFL snaps just the week before.
For Brees, it was like taking candy from a baby. Especially considering the fact that the Eagles' front four couldn't get any pressure on him. He wasn't sacked and was knocked off his spot no more than twice the entire game. Schwartz tried blitzing him a couple of times, but that didn't work. Brees completed a 19-yard pass to wide receiver Keith Kirkwood on a second-and-10 blitz, and an 8-yard pass to Tre-Quan Smith on a second-and-7 early in the second quarter.
A week after Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys rushed for 171 yards against the Eagles, the Saints' Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram did the same, gashing them for a collective 174 yards on 29 carries.
The only hope the Eagles had against Brees was to stop the run on first and second down and put the Hall of Fame-bound quarterback in a lot of third-and-long situations. But Kamara and Ingram averaged a stunning 9.1 yards per carry on first down in the first two quarters, and 8.4 on the Saints' first six possessions, when they built a 31-7 lead.
This shouldn't be news. The Eagles' run defense hasn't been very good for a while. The only reason they had a respectable run-defense number was that teams weren't running on them very much. But in their last five games, including Sunday, they have allowed 6.8 yards per carry on first down. They are missing tackles left and right. They are having trouble getting off blocks. They are leaving gaps wide-open. They are getting fooled by motion and misdirection.
On the Saints' first offensive play Sunday, they put Kamara in motion to the left and slid their line that way. The Eagles bit on the motion, leaving the right side open for Ingram, who picked up 38 yards.
Not having defensive tackle Tim Jernigan, who has yet to play after having offseason back surgery, has hurt. But it has hurt even more because they've gotten next to nothing from 34-year-old Haloti Ngata, whose gas tank is empty.
Then there's linebacker Nigel Bradham. He had a Pro Bowl-worthy season last year, picking up the slack after Jordan Hicks got hurt. The Eagles rewarded him with a big contract in the offseason, but he's not playing nearly as well as he did a year ago. The fire and passion he played with last year seem to be missing.
Carson Wentz had the worst day of his career against the Saints. He completed just 19 of 33 passes for 156 yards, saw his 22-game touchdown streak end, and threw three interceptions, as many as he had thrown in his first seven starts this season. His passer rating, 31.9, was the lowest of his career.
The Eagles needed Wentz to be at his best Sunday if they were going to have any chance of keeping pace with Brees and the Saints' scoring machine. He wasn't. His protection wasn't particularly good. Center Jason Kelce left the game with an elbow injury after the Eagles' second possession, and that didn't help things. But even when Wentz did have time, too many of his throws were off the mark. He was throwing behind receivers and making them go to the ground for passes that had yards-after-catch potential.
And his decision-making was as poor as it's been since his rookie season. His first interception, a deep ball to Nelson Agholor, was heaved into double coverage, which he clearly didn't see, and also was severely underthrown.
In the second quarter, the Eagles managed to get their feet back under them on offense and were driving for a possible touchdown that would have put them within three points of the Saints and maybe made this a ballgame for a little while. On a third-and-3 near midfield, Wentz took a bad sack when the Saints came with a zero blitz. If Wentz had thrown the ball away rather than take a 10-yard sack, maybe Doug Pederson would have decided to go for it on fourth-and-3.
Even if their secondary had been the picture of health, even if they could stop the run, even if Wentz had played better, there still was the matter of Brees.
At 39, he's playing the best football of his career. He leads the league in just about every significant passing category. He's thrown just one interception in 10 games. His passer rating against the Eagles, 153.2, was his third 150-plus rating this season.
Yeah, the fact that he was throwing against Rasul Douglas and the Apostrophes much of the game made things a little easier. But the way this guy is playing right now, I'm not sure it would have mattered who was back there trying to cover his receivers.
This was a really bad turnover matchup. The Eagles can't force them, and the Saints don't commit them.
The Eagles entered the game with just seven takeaways, third-fewest in the league. The Saints had just eight giveaways, the league's fifth-fewest. The Eagles needed to force a couple of turnovers Sunday to break the Saints' offensive stride and also create some short fields for their own offense.
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Didn't happen. For the fourth time this season and the second week in a row, the Eagles failed to register any takeaways.