NEW ORLEANS – You might hear a lot of debate this week about whether the plays or the players are the bigger problem with the Eagles offense, which couldn't provide any help whatsoever Sunday to the outmanned defense in a historic 48-7 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
The worst loss ever suffered by a reigning Super Bowl champion also was the worst game of Carson Wentz's career, his 31.9 passer rating the lowest he has compiled in 37 career starts, the three interceptions tying his worst-ever, from his rookie season of 2016. The inability to come up with a touchdown pass ended his streak of 22 games with at least one of those.
Wentz takes pride in his steady demeanor, but we saw him visibly frustrated Sunday, early and often. It started with the first pick, on which Wentz had all day to throw but with the Eagles in max-protect, not many receiving options. He forced a ball deep to Nelson Agholor that Marshon Lattimore swooped in and caught, with 2 minutes, 39 seconds remaining in the first quarter and the visitors already trailing, 10-0.
"I was just mad at myself. Because I just didn't see the coverage right. I knew the type of ballgame we were in. We put an emphasis on starting fast, and we didn't do that. I obviously didn't do that either, so I was frustrated," Wentz said at the lectern.
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He'd walked to a narrow, cramped room across from the locker room after dressing in a silent fury, as backup quarterback Nick Foles spoke softly in Wentz's ear, the starting quarterback's face as red as his hair.
"We just didn't show up early today. We didn't show up, and we got beat," he said. "Give them credit, but we know we're better than what we put out there today. I know, myself, I got to be better. I got to lead these guys better, I got to come out swinging better and move the ball, move the chains, and I didn't do that, and this team didn't do it."
Eagles coach Doug Pederson and offensive coordinator Mike Groh once again scripted early plays that didn't work. The Eagles went three-and-out on their first possession, for the sixth time in 10 games. They went three-and-out on their second possession, despite getting the ball on their 45 after a 48-yard Corey Clement kickoff return following the Saints' opening field goal.
Down 17-0, the Eagles mounted a crisp, six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, rookie running back Josh Adams scoring from 28 yards out on a nice cutback behind Brandon Brooks' block. Then came an incredible rarity in this season of disjointed futility: The defense forced a New Orleans three-and-out.
The offense went back to work with purpose, moving from the Eagles' 25 to the Saints' 46 in five plays. Third-and-3, the Eagles called timeout with 4 minutes, 13 seconds remaining in the half. Hey, even a field goal here, maybe it's a one-score game at halftime. Score a touchdown and you are really, indisputably back in it.
Given the score and the way Pederson likes to go for it on fourth down, maybe if you don't convert third-and-3 there, you try again. All kinds of possibilities.
And then, there weren't.
Wentz dropped back from the shotgun and looked downfield. On his left, Jason Peters and Isaac Seumalo had guys, and Corey Clement picked up a blitzer. Nobody coming from there. On his right, Lane Johnson was locked up with a rusher, ditto Brooks.
New Orleans defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins ripped straight up the middle, a late entry, past center Stefen Wisniewski, playing because of Jason Kelce's early elbow injury. Wentz might have seen him coming and thrown the ball away. But he didn't. He took a 10-yard sack.
You don't go for it on fourth-and-13. The Eagles punted. The Saints took a five-yard penalty for running into Cam Johnston, but all that meant was another punt. On fourth-and-3, it would have meant a first down.
The Eagles punted and the Saints drove for five successive touchdowns. The brief moment there when things might have been different was blown to bits under a torrent of Drew Brees mastery, Eagles misplays, and more injuries to a secondary that is looking like Malcolm Jenkins plus a bunch of guys who used to play the fourth quarter of preseason games.
"We were trying to be aggressive," Wentz said. "Take a shot down the field. They played a good coverage, and I just didn't get it out in time."
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Wisniewski said he and Seumalo miscommunicated on the blocking assignments.
"We just got to communicate better," Wisniewski said. "I should have made a different [protection] call."
Pederson indicated the idea was to throw deep to Alshon Jeffery (four catches, 33 yards), but "the pressure was right on [Wentz] real fast, before he could get the ball out."
Pederson said the Eagles are "just out of sync, offensively. We have to get back to some continuity."
Wentz (19 for 33 for 156 yards) averaged just 3.8 yards per attempt. The Saints came in having given up the fifth-most 20-yards-plus pass plays in the NFL. The Eagles managed no such plays. Their longest completion went for 19 yards, to Jordan Matthews.
"I felt like our week of practice was really good. When it came down to coming out and playing, we didn't perform," said Johnson, who returned from an MCL sprain. "It's frustrating. … We have the guys to do it, and you'll see flashes. Just not as consistent as what we were before.
"Looking across the field, it kind of reminded me of our offense last year. … Rocking and rolling your way. Last year … we scored most of the time on the opening drive, so it made play-calling a lot easier. Now we get behind early, seems like every game, and we find ourselves in a rut."
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