In heartbreaking fashion, the Eagles lost to the Saints yesterday 26-24 and were eliminated in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. While it was an early exit, there is nothing to be ashamed of this season. The fact that the Eagles got this far is saying a lot, but it can’t mask the fact that they could’ve won this game and be playing another week. The offense, which was 2nd best in the league during the regular season, struggled throughout the entire game and only picked up 256 total yards. And while the defense played relatively well, it wasn’t enough to stop the high-powered Saints, who greatly outgained the Eagles in yards. The Saints just proved that they’re a better overall team.
While Foles was still very efficient, throwing for 2 TDs and no INTs and achieving a passer rating of 105.0, he was unable to even break the 200 yard mark on passing yards. He was pressured a lot throughout the night and seemed uncomfortable at times, not knowing exactly what he should do. That led to 2 sacks and a few more hits, which in turn led to questionable passes. It can be argued that he still outdueled Drew Brees, who threw for 250 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INTs, but Brees picked up the win and that’s what counts. Foles’ inexperience showed itself a lot in the past two games, but for Brees it was just another day at work.
LeSean McCoy couldn’t really get anything going against the Saints’ tough run defense, rushing for 21 times but only picking up 77 yards. He did add a pivotal 1-yard TD at the end of the third quarter to put the Eagles back in the game. He also had 4 catches for 15 yards. Bryce Brown and Chris Polk were nowhere to be found, as neither of them recorded a touch all night. And while I thought Foles would run a little more last night, he only had one carry for 3 yards. Basically, they couldn’t run the ball, which is what they do best, and it hurt them greatly.
DeSean Jackson was virtually shut out for most of the game until Saints CB Keenan Lewis went down with a concussion, taking another blow to the already injured Saints secondary. He finished with 3 catches for 53 yards, but his lack of presence in the past two games was also a key reason why they couldn’t get enough offense going. Riley Cooper had what I thought was one of his best games of the season, grabbing 6 catches for 68 yards and a TD. He did have a very bad drop on third down that could’ve led to a scoring drive, but he made many other key catches that the other Eagles receivers just weren’t making. Zach Ertz also had a nice 3 yard TD reception in the 4th quarter to give the Eagles a 1 point lead.
What’s crazy is how well the Eagles pass defense was. They picked up 2 INTs on Brees and held every receiver to under 50 yards. In fact, Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, and Darren Sproles only combined for 91 yards and 0 TDs. That in itself is impressive and should be duly noted. Unfortunately, the part of defense they were actually kind of good at, the run defense, is where they failed. Starting Saints RB was ruled out with a chest injury before the game even started, and backup Mark Ingram came in. He ran 18 times for 97 yards and a TD, clearly dominating the Eagles front seven. Khiry Robinson and Darren Sproles were even able to run with ease, picking up 45 and 29 yards respectively. The Saints ran it an astounding 36 times for 185 yards, something that is clearly not a usual part of their offensive plan.
I usually don’t trash a player, but Eagles CB Roc Carmichael is just horrible. I have no idea why they even signed him in the first place, and somehow he ended up as their 4th CB on the depth chart. He was forced to start a game or two when Bradley Fletcher was injured, and he didn’t perform well. Last night, I only noticed him twice, and he screwed up both times. The first time was on a punt where Brandon Boykin jumped to save the ball from going into the endzone and batted it back inside the 5 yard line, but Carmichael came flying in and kicked the ball into the endzone leading to a touchback. The second play was the play after Cary Williams got hurt, forcing Williams off the field for one play. Brees threw right to the guy Carmichael was supposed to be covering and they converted a key third down and long. The Eagles need to draft a CB badly because this guy just isn’t good at all.
It’s sad to see the season over already, but it’s certainly a week more than I thought they’d be playing. They gave it a valiant effort and I commend them for it, but it’s sad to see this one slip through their hands. I’ll be back later with a full recap of the Eagles season.