The Eagles are now in danger of losing home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs after their 20-10 debacle against the visiting Saints.
The 10 points was a season low for the Eagles, whose collective, casual demeanor projected a disinterested team playing on New Year’s Day.
The Saints were involved. New Orleans played like a desperate team.
In losing their second-straight game, the Eagles dropped to 13-3 with their last game against the playoff-bound New York Giants, while New Orleans kept its faint playoff hopes alive by improving to 7-9.
Losing defensive end Josh Sweat with a neck injury in the first quarter didn’t help. Sweat was taken to a local Philadelphia hospital for observations, though he was moving his arms and legs on the field. If Sweat is lost, the Eagles will now move forward without nickel corner Avonte Maddox (toe), Lane Johnson (groin), and presently Jalen Hurts (shoulder), who will most likely return in the Eagles’ season finale against the playoff-bound New York Giants next Sunday.
Against the Saints, the Eagles did achieve a single-season team record 67 sacks with their fifth-straight game with six sacks or more. Still, Saints’ quarterback Andy Dalton managed the game well to complete 18 of 22 for 204 yards and led the Saints to 13 first-half points, which as it turned out was enough to win.
Larger questions loom for the Eagles, with or without Hurts: Did the Eagles peak too early? Is this team leaking oil at the most crucial time of the season?
The Eagles looked like a tired team against New Orleans.
There was hardly any good, some bad and a Mount Everest of ugly in the Eagles’ 20-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Week 17’s Good, Bad, and Ugly could have easily been substituted with The Bad, The Ugly and The Horrendous.
A.J. Brown’s 78-yard third-quarter touchdown from Gardner Minshew with :45 left in the third quarter. It was the latest the Eagles had scored a touchdown in a game this season, but it got them within 13-10 when nothing was going right.
Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox’s 12-yard sack with 3:45 left in the third quarter on a second-and-eight at the Eagles’ 43. It pushed the Saints back to their 45. It was the fourth Eagles’ sack, giving them 65 for the season, the most in the NFL since, ironically, the 2000 New Orleans Saints had 66.
Kicker Jake Elliott’s season-best 56-yard field goal with 10:58 left in the third quarter to conclude the Eagles’ first drive of the second half. It got the Eagles on the board after their worst half of the season.
Miles Sanders’ nine-yard run from the Eagles’ 9 to the 18 to begin the second half. In the grand scheme, it might not seem significant. But his nine-yard run equaled the total for their season-low yards rushing in a half after the Eagles’ horrid opening two quarters.
Minshew’s 18-yard completion to Dallas Goedert on the Eagles’ third play of the second half. Again, not a game-changing play, and considering we’re grasping for what little we can get, it was significant. Placed up against the first half, it was important getting two first downs on the first three plays of the second half (equaling the Eagles’ first-half output). On the Eagles’ first drive of the second half, they rushed for 29 yards, had 63 yards of total offense and had three first downs—all better than what the Eagles did in the first two quarters.
Nickel corner Josiah Scott’s leaping interception at the Eagles’ 12 on a Dalton pass intended for Chris Olave with :34 left in the half. It was something in a half of nothing.
Defensive end Haason Reddick’s five-yard sack on the Saints’ last drive of the first half. Reddick’s sack at the Eagles’ 31 was a bright spot with less than a minute in the second quarter. His second sack was the Eagles’ sixth of the game and 67th of the season on second-and-10 at the Saints’ 24 with11:30 to play.
Defensive end Brandon Graham’s career-high 10th sack, and the Eagles’ single-season franchise record 63rd sack. The Eagles became the first team in NFL history to have four players with 10 sacks or more when Graham took down Dalton for a three-yard loss with 14:25 left in the half. Graham later got his 11th sack of the season at the Saints’ 43 with 14:17 left to play. It was the Eagles’ fifth sack of the game, giving them 66 this season.
Linebacker T.J. Edwards taking down Taysom Hill for no gain at the Saints’ 47 on the third play of the game. He was the only positive on the Eagles’ defense on New Orleans’ first drive.
Gardner Minshew was bad—no shock there. He was rushed and sacked six times for 28 yards, but he looked indecisive and telegraphed some of his passes. He completed 18 of 32 for 274 yards with a touchdown and a very costly interception.
The Eagles opened the second half after a disastrous first half on a holding call by Kyron Johnson for nine yards, pushing the Eagles back to their nine.
Left tackle Jordan Mailata getting spun around like a turnstile by Saints’ defensive end Carl Granderson on a six-yard sack with 8:26 left in the first half.
Sanders failing to block Saints’ linebacker Kaden Elliss for a six-yard sack on the Eagles’ first offensive play of the game.
On the first play of the game, Dalton’s 16-yard strike to Olave at the Saints’ 41 right in front of cornerback Darius Slay.
Scott not getting over in time to pick up Olave on a third-and-three on the Eagles’ 36 on the Saints’ first drive. Dalton’s eight-yard pass to Olave put the ball at the Eagles’ 28.
On the Saints’ first drive, New Orleans right tackle Ryan Ramczyk steering Cox out of the way on Hill’s eight-yard carry on fourth-and-two at the Eagles’ nine. Cox got blown out of the way, Reddick got sealed off by Saints’ tight end Juwan Johnson the former Glassboro High and Penn State star, and fullback Adam Prentice pushed Edwards out of the way.
The Eagles allowing the Saints to convert five of their first six third-down opportunities.
Marshon Lattimore’s 11-yard pick six with 5:27 to play that sealed the game for the Saints. It was the first interception this season by a Saints’ cornerback for a team that is dead last in the NFL in takeaways (12 in 16 games). It was the first defensive touchdown for the Saints. With 5:27 left in the game, Eagles’ fans can be seen climbing the steps of Lincoln Financial Field leaving in droves, giving up. They had enough.
Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni going for it on fourth-and-one at the 50 with 8:35 to play. It was bound to happen that the Eagles would finally be stopped. Why stomp on the momentum there? The Eagles’ defense, especially the front four, had been playing exceptionally well and punting there would have pinned the Saints back. Linebacker Demario Davis and space-eater Shy Tuttle stuffed the middle. It marked only the third time on 26 short-yardage sneaks this year that the Eagles were stopped.
The Eagles first half. The Eagles didn’t get their first first down of the game until there were 12 seconds left in the half, which stirred derisive applause from the Linc crowd. It marked the worst first half of the season for the Eagles, who were outgained, 247 to 61. The Eagles gave up 13 first downs and had just two, allowed Dalton to complete 13 of 14 for 164 yards and surrendered five sacks for 18 yards. The Saints averaged 6.3 yards per play, opposed to the direct opposite to the Eagles’ 3.6. The Eagles’ nine yards rushing, 61 yards of total offense, 17 plays and two first downs were season lows in any half this season. Of their five possessions, four of them were three-and-outs.
The Eagles’ defense on the Saints’ opening drive. When Hill scored from a yard out with 6:02 left in the first quarter, half the quarter was gone and the Eagles had not touched the ball yet. Hill’s one-yard touchdown was indicative of how the Saints’ offensive line bullied the Eagles. Saints’ right guard Calvin Throckmorton came crashing down on Eagles’ safety K’Von Wallace, left tackle James Hurst stood up Graham, while Javon Hargrave came too far up field, and Kyzir White got chipped by Prentice in the end zone. The Saints converted four third downs and a fourth down over the 15-play, 8-minute, 58-second series. The Eagles somehow managed to make Dalton look like Joe Montana on the drive, when he completed five-of-five for 40 yards and Hill look like a human bulldozer.
The Eagles’ first four offensive drives. For the first time this season, the Eagles went three-and-out on four-consecutive drives. It also marked the first time this season they went three-and-out on their first series of the game. On their first 12 plays, they had just 21 yards of total offense, and averaged a paltry 1.8 yards a play to Saints’ 6.3 yards average per play.
On third-and-four at the Saints’ 36, Dalton completing a 58-yard bomb to Rashid Shaheed to the Eagles’ six, thoroughly burning corner James Bradberry.
Left guard Landon Dickerson’s holding call that negated Kenneth Gainwell’s 28-yard touchdown run on a third-and-four with 11:12 left in the third quarter. It was a debatable call. Dickerson did have a good chunk of Kentavius Street’s jersey; however, the Saints’ defensive tackle was in the process of falling down. It took away the touchdown, forcing the Eagles to kick a field goal.
On the Eagles’ second drive of the second half, the false start penalties on right guard Isaac Seumalo, center Jason Kelce and Dickerson.
On first-and-10 at the Eagles’ 29 with 12:57 to play, Kelce getting flagged for going downfield that wiped out Boston Scott’s 22-yard reception. It was Eagles’ sixth penalty of the second half—five on the offensive line (Kelce’s illegal man downfield, Seumalo, Kelce and Dickerson’s false starts, Dickerson’s hold on the Gainwell TD run). The Eagles were hit with a total of eight penalties in the second half, six were on the offensive line, and four of the six were false starts.
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written feature stories for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, which appeared on SportsCenter. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.