Just because the Philadelphia Eagles weren't expected to make it to the playoffs doesn't make their Round 1 Wild Card loss to the New Orleans Saints any less devastating. They lost at home on a last second field goal 26-24, sending the Birds home for the rest of the playoffs. In the end, the cold weather didn't have much effect on the game, and it came down to the final possession which unfortunately placed the ball in Drew Brees' hands. Despite the result, it was an entertaining game after the first quarter, and capped a terrific season by the Eagles. On to the numbers:
Strictly looking at the numbers, the Eagles were lucky to be in this game as long as they were. They gained nearly 200 yards less than the Saints, including a surprising 105 less rush yards. That, to me, was the reason the Eagles lost this game. Everyone was worried about Drew Brees picking apart the Eagles secondary, but he had an OK game throwing for just 250 yards and 2 interceptions (which led to 7 points for Philadelphia). Mark Ingram ran all over the Eagles defense, gaining nearly 100 yards. The Eagles offense wasn't as explosive as it usually was, only gaining 4.5 yards on average and throwing for under 200 yards while LeSean McCoy was held in check. They played a very clean game with only 4 penalties and no turnovers, which absolutely helped them stay in the game until the final drive. If you take a look at first downs and third down % however, you can see the Eagles were unable to sustain drives like the Saints were. Philly was probably one big play, turnover, or defensive stop away from winning this game but it wasn't meant to be.
The offense for the Eagles was definitely not as explosive as normal. DeSean Jackson was shut out in the first half, and only finished with 53 yards. LeSean McCoy was held to 77 yards, with only a 3.7 average. Foles passed for under 200 yards, and took costly sacks and had costly intentional grounding penalties. There were only 3 plays over 20 yards for Philly, which is well below the average for the league leaders in that category. Of their 10 drives, 4 of them resulted in 3-and-outs. Another 4 resulted in scores, and 1 of the remaining 2 was a missed field goal. Another good drive could have turned that L into a W. Not much else to say here, it was pretty obvious where the offense went wrong. The Saints defense got the best of them.
The defense did average overall. The pass defense wasn't bad at all, as they didn't allow any single Saints player to beat them. Drew Brees spread the ball around as he usually does, and only had one deep pass play (40 yards). As I said last week the Eagles needed to get pressure on Brees, but they only had 2 short sacks out of the 3+ that I think they desperately needed. He had plenty of time to find open receivers, which he needed since coverage was good. The rush defense was almost non existent, and the key to the Saints offense. As usual, DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks came ready to play.
As for special teams? Abysmal. F-. A missed field goal in a 2 point game, and a devastating horse collar tackle giving Brees a short field on the final drive? There's the game.
-I don't think the Eagles should have gone deep to DeSean Jackson on their final drive. It was open and "worked" but was too big of a chunk of yards to get in a short period of time. It gave New Orleans nearly 5 minutes to get a game winning field goal. Chip Kelly should have kept the offense going at the same pace it was, as I actually thought that there was a chance they could eat up the last 8 minutes of that game. Instead, 3 minutes.
-Building on that, I figured the game may come down to the last possession, and look what happened.
-Lots of people are blaming Alex Henery for missing that field goal, but I'm not. The miss, though ultimately on the kicker, was Nick Foles' fault. He needs to learn when to get rid of the ball, since taking that long sack certainly changed Henery's attempt from easy to hard.
-Speaking of Foles, if there is one weakness he has it's not knowing when to get rid of the ball under pressure/getting rid of it when he shouldn't. It's ok to take a sack, but not one for 15 yards. And it's ok to throw the ball away, but not when it's intentional grounding. He cost his team at least 3 points this game, and possibly more.
-One of the Saints CBs violated the NFL's concussion protocol to return to the game. I wonder if that had any effect...
-Excellent first year for Chip Kelly. Hopefully he learns from his mistakes next year, as he wasn't perfect.
-I will have one final installment of BTN for this season, and it will be a compilation of the entire 2013-14 Eagles season much like I did last year. Stay tuned.
(Eagles vs. Saints PDF)
Last week at Dallas: W, 24-22
Next: ? but one of these opponents