At 1-3, the Philadelphia Eagles desperately needed a win to stay alive in the NFC East. Their opponent was an equally desperate New Orleans Saints team who, at 1-3, was clinging to life in the NFC South. The Eagles responded, putting together their most complete game of the year en route to a 39-17 rout.
Let's take a look at how each unit performed Sunday:
Overall grade: B+
It wasn't always pretty, and the competition wasn't exactly stiff, but the Eagles played their best football of the season against the Saints. Going into the game, the numbers indicated that the Eagles would have some opportunities. Defensively the Saints ranked near the bottom of the league, and presented the Eagles with opportunities to make plays in the run game.
After a shaky start by quarterback Sam Bradford, the Eagles put up 29 unanswered points. The defense was able to force either a punt or a turnover on 11 of the Saints offense's 13 drives. Their efforts were led by defensive end Fletcher Cox, who had perhaps his best game in an Eagles uniform.
At 1-3, the Eagles were in a do-or-die situation Sunday. And after a rough start, they were able to pick themselves up off the matt and dominate an inferior team. It wasn't a revelatory win, but it didn't need to be.
The good news is that Sam Bradford threw for 333 yards and two touchdowns. The bad news is that he also threw two costly interceptions in the end zone. Outside of those picks, though, there was little to complain about. The Eagles run game put up 183 yards, DeMarco Murray carried 20 times for 83 yards and a score, and the stable of running backs was able to pick up yards throughout.
After last week's loss to Washington, Murray said he wanted the ball more, and was granted his wish. His 20 carries were the most he'd had all season, and not surprisingly, so were his 83 yards. Even the banged-up offensive line gave Bradford time to throw and gave the running backs holes to hit.
Again, the Saints' 23rd-ranked defense isn't the most intimidating group in the NFL. But the Eagles offense should be pleased with the way it was able to rally after a shaky start and take advantage of an inferior opponent.
Fletcher Cox, you are the man. Many considered Cox an All-Pro candidate last year, and the former Mississippi State product showed why on Sunday. Cox led the team with six tackles (all solo), three sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
The defense as a whole took some time to get started. Drew Brees and the Saints scored late in the first quarter when tight end Benjamin Watson was left open for a touchdown, but it was the only touchdown the group would allow until the last play of the game.
Between those two touchdowns, the story on Sunday was much the same as it had been all year. The defensive line continued its strong play (the Saints ran 21 times for 96 yards), and safety Walter Thurmond III registered his second interception of the season in the fourth quarter. And if not for a garbage time touchdown to Brandin Cooks, the defense would have prevented a touchdown through three quarters.
All in all, just another day at the office for this Eagles defense.
Special teams: B
Wide receiver Josh Huff started the game off with a 40-yard kickoff return. And though kicker Caleb Sturgis missed another PAT, he did hit all four of his field goal attempts.
Fortunately, the kicking game didn't end up being a difference-maker in this one. Otherwise, it was another solid performance from one of the best special teams units in the NFL.