EAGLES MAKE STATEMENT WITH 40-29 WIN OVER NEW ORLEANS
The Eagles are officially in the hunt for a playoff spot.
At 5-6 on the season, the Birds may have the friendliest schedule for the rest of the year in the league.
The Eagles have two games against the Giants, two versus Washington, one against the Jets and one against a Dallas Cowboys team that will likely be resting its players by the time January 9 rolls around.
Oh yeah, they have a bye in there on December 12.
The Eagles raced out to a 33-7 lead 2:38 left in the third quarter; then let the Saints (5-5) slide back into the game, trailing by just 11 points with 7:14 left in the fourth before scoring on an ankle-breaking 24-yard touchdown run by quarterback Jalen Hurts put the game out of reach.
The final score was 40-29.
Tackle Lane Johnson said the NFL has too many talented teams to let the foot off the regardless of the lead.
“That comes down to everybody executing and letting your guard down,” Johnson said. “The league is so talented, you can’t do that, you can’t allow that to happen. When it does, you’ll see stuff like that. You’ll see games turn, especially against good (teams) – the Saints have had our number for a number of years and we know that when we play against them. And they made a late surge there in the second half.”
The Eagles ran the ball well once again. As a team, the Birds rushed 50 times for 242 yards and three rushing touchdowns, all by Hurts.
Miles Sanders returned from the injury list to contribute 94 yards on 16 carries.
But it was a up and down performance for the third-year running back out of Penn State. With the Eagles leading 14-0 after the first quarter, Sanders fumbled on the first play of the Eagles first drive of the second quarter. It was significant because it happened on the Eagles six-yard line setting up a first and goal for the Saints at the six-yard-line.
The Saints tried to bugle the turnover with a two-yard loss on run by Mark Ingram II and a 10-yard holding penalty called on offensive tackle Landon Young.
But Saints quarterback Trevor Siemian hit tight end Adam Trautman with an 18-yard strike in the back of the end zone to make the score 14-7 with 13:09 left in the second quarter.
Sanders was asked whether being out for a few weeks played into his lack of ball security in a crucial area of the field..
“It is something I am not supposed to do,” Sanders said after the game. “My job is to protect the football and I failed to do that. I am not going to sit here and make excuses. It is not going to happen again after being back active and getting in a groove. I am going to keep this thing going and move forward.”
The Eagles followed up with two drives that ended with field goals putting the Birds up 20-7.
Sanders wasn't much of the offense as Jordan Howard was the "go-to" back on those drives.
When Sirianni did put the ball back in Sanders’ hands with 2:50 left in the half and the ball at the Eagles four-yard line, Sanders fumbled again. This time the play was blown dead. No harm, no foul.
But when Howard was unavailable in the second half because of a knee injury. When it counted most, when the Eagles were on the verge blowing a 26-point lead, Sanders came through with 26 yards on the drive that led to Hurts’ game-clinching TD.
Sanders was asked if it means a lot to him that he was put back into the game after the fumbles.
“Yes, absolutely. Everybody trusts me with the ball in my hands,” Sanders said. “All I can say is that I appreciate that to keep my confidence going throwing me back in there.”
Sanders finished with a game-best 94 yards on 16 carries. Howard rushed 10 times for 63 yards and Hurts gained 69 yards on 18 carries.
Hurts finished 13 of 24 for 147 yards, no interceptions, three sacks and no fumbles.
Siemian, had a brutal start that included throwing a pass with less than a half minute left in the first half that was intercepted by Darius “Big Play” Slay and run back 51 yard for a touchdown.
He finished 22 of 40 for 214 yards and three touchdown passes. He was intercepted twice but not sacked.
Dallas Goetert led the Eagles with five receptions for 62 yards. DeVonta Smith caught four passes for 61 yards.
There was a J.J. Arcega-Whiteside contribution against the Saints. The third-year receiver caught just one pass for 23 yards that proved to be pivotal during the fourth–quarter, game-clinching drive.
Hurts said trust is something he has with all his teammates.
“I always have a lot of confidence in everybody and anybody who’s out there on the field, targeting whoever it is,” Hurts said.”I believe in everybody and that’s what it is. For J.J. to come into the game in a situation like that, in a situation where we need to get a first down to essentially take the air out of the ball and keep it rolling. It was a big-time play by him.”
Hurts also talked about how crucial taking care of the football down the stretch is so important.
“Where ball security is a premium and four-minute offense in a situation like that at the end of the game, he did what he was supposed to do. He did his job. I love it.”
T.J Edwards led the Eagles defense with ten tackles that include 10 total tackles, one tackle for loss, an interception, two passes knocked down and one fumble recovery. *
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsonIII