EAGLES OFFENSE FALLS FLAT IN LOSS TO SAINTS-CAN STILL CLINCH TOP SEED WITH WIN OVER GIANTS ON SUNDAY
Eagles defensive end Josh Sweat, who suffered a neck injury during the first half of the Saints game and was taken to an area hospital for precautionary reasons, posted on social media that he is fine and will play again this season.
After the Eagles knocked off the Chicago Bears on December 13, the math was simple: win one of the remaining three games on the regular season schedule and the Birds are NFC East Champs and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming NFC playoffs.
Here it is, January 1, 2023 and the division and coveted first round bye are still up for grabs.
Losing to the Dallas Cowboys in Dallas last week was almost expected. The Cowboys were the team chasing the Eagles for the division and top spot in the NFC and the Birds were shorthanded.
The Eagles were without starting quarterback Jalen Hurts, who injured his shoulder in the game against Chicago.
His replacement, Gardner Minshew played well, but led an offense that turned the ball over four times.
Still, the Birds were in the game until the final play.
Surely the Eagles would handle the six-win New Orleans Saints, even if the Eagles coaching staff wanted to keep Hurts on the sideline one more week, right?
Jack Driscoll is capable to fill in for All Pro right tackle Lane Johnson, who is out with a sports hernia.
Two of the turnovers against the Cowboys were deemed to not be Minshew’s fault. So, we're good, right?
The Eagles offense, the unit that scored 27 points on Dallas last week on the road, turned in its worst performance of the season, losing to New Orleans 20-10 and with the Cowboys win over Tennessee on Thursday, leaves no real margin for error going into the season finale against the New York Football Giants next Sunday at the Linc.
Seven of the Saints 20 points came on a score by cornerback Marshon Lattimore from a pick six thrown by Minshew 5:27 left in the fourth quarter when the Birds were mounting what everyone in Eagle Nation was hoping to be a game-winning drive.
The interception was brutal. Minshew threw the ball right to Lattimore at the 12-yard-line and the six-year veteran out of Ohio State, pretty much trotted into the end zone.
Minshew was asked after the game what went wrong with the play.
“We ran that same play earlier and it was the same coverage and they made a great adjustment to jump the route,” Minshew said. “I should have seen that leverage when we made the motion. I assumed since it was the same coverage, He was going to play it the same, but he made a great adjustment and made the play to beat us.”
The worst series of the game for the Eagles defense was the Saints opening drive.
New Orleans (7-9) quarterback Andy Dalton led his team on an impressive 75-yard, 15-play drive that took nearly nine minutes off the clock to open the game.
Tight end/running back/quarterback Taysom Hill rushed for a one-yard touchdown to gve the Saints a 7-0 lead and their only trip to the end zone.
The Eagles (13-3) only trip to the end zone came with 45 seconds left in the third quarter when Minshew hit A.J Brown with a 78-yard catch-and-run play.
Other than 56-yard Jake Elliott field goal on the Birds opening drive of the third quarter, that was it for the home team.
The Eagles were so ineffective in the first half; they didn’t even register a first down until there was 12 seconds left in the first half.
“We just couldn’t get rolling,” said Minshew who was 6 of 10 for 69 yards in the first half and sacked five times. “It is one of those things that you try and get that first, first-down and we kept shooting ourselves in the foot and getting in our own way. They are a good defense, too. There is not much room for error when you play a team like that. We didn’t do enough to win.”
Minshew finished 18 for 32 for 274 yards, one touchdown pass and the 12-yard pick six. He was sacked six times.
Miles Sanders rushed 12 of the 15 times the Eagles ran the ball for 61 yards.
DeVonta Smith caught nine passes for 115 yards.
Brown caught four passes for 97 yards including the 78-yard score.
Brown was asked if the pick-six was it a matter of not being familiar with each other.
“I don’t think that’s the case,” Brown said. “He had that one look and he just followed up with that look.”
Brown on not clinching the No. 1 seed in the NFC for the second straight week:
“It’s definitely frustrating,” Brown said. “That was definitely a winnable game. We didn’t make enough plays to win the game.”
The Pro Bowl receiver was asked if there was any pressure the Eagles might feel to clinch No. 1 seed in the NFC next week:
“There’s still no pressure,” He said “We’ve got to go out and play ball. We’ve got to go out and execute. Today was just unacceptable.”
He said it was up to the players individually to get this done.
“Guys just got to come together,” Brown said. “And see what they really want to do.”
MORE EAGLES TALK ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED
Tight end Dallas Goetert, who caught three passes for 45 yards talked about letting this opportunity to clinch slip away, at least for this week.
“I’m not going to dwell on it too much,” Gordert said. “We obviously could have clinched everything we wanted. But everything we set out for at the start of the year is right in from of us. There is nothing like playing meaningful football at the end of the year. That’s what we have the opportunity to do. If we go out there and win next week we win the division and the No. 1 seed. Everything we set out for is right in front of us.
“We just have the find the positive in this and get better from this game and be ready to go next week.”
The former second round pick out of South Dakota State talked about being shut out in the first half.
“It’s frustrating, it’s hard,” Goedert said. “I don’t know if we converted a first down in the first half until the two-minute drive we had at the end. When you do that, when you don’t sustain drives, you go three-and-out it’s hard on the offense, it’s hard on the defense. I thought [Minshew] did a good job fighting right to the end. Defense played their butts off…we didn’t do enough to win.”
Defensive tackle Linval Joseph, who assisted on two tackle said his teammates need to let this one go and take on the status that the game against the Giants is it.
“That’s it!” Joseph said. “It’s now or never. That’s how I look at it. If you want it, go get it. You got to show up. There is only so many times you get it in your face; before you have to stand up for yourself.
“It’s frustrating,” Joseph continued. “Everybody’s back is up against the wall. I want people to feel like our backs are against the wall and we need to move forward. Hopefully this week we do it.“
Cornerback James Bradberry, a veteran in his first season with the Birds, said his teammates need to realize they are finally being challenged.
“Adversity’s going to come,” Bradberry said at his locker after the game. “You can’t expect the season to go peachy and clean, or be smooth our way all the time. We put ourselves in this position, we have to fight our way out of it. We gotta win next week.”
Dalton was 18 of 22 for 204 yards, no TD passes. He was intercepted once (by NCB Josiah Scott) and was sacked six times.
Alvin Kamara rushed 16 times for 74 yards.
Taysom Hill was 2 of 2 for 24 yards. He also rushed 14 times for 46 yards and a TD. He caught one pass for nine yards.
T.J Edwards led the Eagles – again – with 11 total tackles (9 solo).
Haason Reddick recorded two sacks and now has 16 on the season.
Brandon Graham also recorded two sacks and finally recorded more than ten sacks in a season for the first time. He has eleven sacks for the year.
Bardberry said he looks at this weekend as an opportunity to right the ship, and the season.
“That’s the one positive out of this situation,” Bradberry said. ‘We can still fulfill our destiny. We have an opportunity to go out there, lock the division and get that first round bye.” *
Email Al Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: Eagles defensive end Josh Sweat, who suffered a neck injury during the first half the Saints game and was taken to an area hospital for precautionary reasons, posted on social media that he is fine and will play again this season.