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November 18, 2018

Final observations: Saints 48, Eagles 7

Eagles NFL
111818-DougPederson-USAToday Chuck Cook/USA Today

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson on the sidelines in the first quarter against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Billed as Fox's "Game of the Week," the Eagles came out in New Orleans and played like a team convinced they were about to be on the receiving end of a beatdown before the opening kickoff even took place. And they were handed the exact result they deserved, with the Saints walking all over them in a 48-7 laugher.

Here's what I saw in the loss to the Saints, and a few things to think about heading into their division-heavy stretch of the season.

The Good

• The game is over.

• Cameron Johnston had the best tackle of the game for the Eagles. That is not a misprint.

• At least the Eagles played with some pride with New Orleans inside the five and already up 45-7. They stopped the Saints on three straight run plays around the goal line, forcing their opponent to kick a field goal.

I'm grasping at straws here, gang. That performance was a steaming pile of trash on Philadelphia's end.

The Bad

• On New Orleans' first score of the second half, a beautiful throw Drew Brees dropped in to Michael Thomas down the sideline, you saw exactly the sort of play the Eagles have failed to hit on all year. Carson Wentz has been excellent hitting guys across the middle and picking up chunks of yards that way, but there have been precious few times where he and his wideouts have been able to exploit gaps around the edges.

Call that or blame that on whatever you want — lack of separation, poor throwing from Wentz, bad offensive line play — the killer instinct they showed time and time again last year just isn't there. They are a team that allows other people to step on their neck, a far cry from what they were in 2017-18.

• For a guy nicknamed "Big Balls Doug," Pederson sure waited far too long to start showing aggression on fourth down. The Eagles passed up a couple opportunities in the first half to go for it on fourth and short, and Pederson opted to punt instead, playing a field-position game with an offensive juggernaut.

The willingness to go for it on fourth down is not all that valuable if you can't figure out when to really lean on that philosophy. When you were going three-and-out in the first half and then allowing New Orleans to make back the field position in just a few plays, the game was already lost. You have to play on the front foot against teams like the Saints, especially when you know your defense is a massive liability.

Sean Payton really showed the difference between the two coaches in the fourth quarter when presented with an opportunity to either kick a long field goal or go for it in Eagles territory, already up 38-7. The Saints went, not too long after the Eagles had punted with the same gap in score, and Brees hit Alvin Kamara for a touchdown to make it 45-7.

Situational awareness has been absent in Philadelphia this year, as has any bravery when it really matters. If you're going to just concede the win to New Orleans, take out Wentz and other important starters and don't even bother pretending you're making a real attempt to win.

• Boy oh boy, is that trade for Golden Tate looking like a complete waste of resources at the moment. Philadelphia's season is on life support, and while you can't blame Tate for where they're at right now, the third-round pick they gave up to get him is certainly a bit more meaningful for a team that looks like it's going nowhere fast.

Look at some of the guys the Saints have lining up for them and think about where they were acquired. Alvin Kamara: third-round pick. Tre'Quan Smith, who torched the Eagles for 100+ yards on Sunday: third-down pick.

I get what the Eagles were trying to do with the Tate move, and the comp. pick they may get will help make up for this. But they took a gamble and look like they're going to walk away with the table missing most of the contents from their wallet.

• The secondary has the excuse that they have lost nearly every good member of the unit to injury. The defensive front, however, has been mostly healthy for all of this season, and they've done absolutely nothing to impact games when it has mattered.

Outside of Fletcher Cox and sometimes Michael Bennett, the boys up front aren't getting anywhere near the quarterback. Drew Brees is elite and can make good attempts look silly, but opposing quarterbacks have easily dodged any pressure from the Eagles all year. With passing being king in today's NFL, you have zero shot if you can't get to the quarterback.

There's a pretty decent stack of money invested in those trenches, and it has bought the Eagles next to nothing this year.

• Managing to score just seven points against this Saints defense is an embarrassment. The offense has flat-out sucked for long stretches this year, and you can spread the blame around to whoever you please and still be right. The offensive line play blows, the running backs don't put fear in anyone, the deep ball isn't there, and Carson Wentz is either missing easy throws or turning potential long gains into mere catches after guys have to readjust to the ball.

Wentz threw another duck down the field late in the game on Sunday, resulting in another interception for the Saints.

I'll put some of this on the line play, which has been brutal, but the coach and quarterback should take a long look in the mirror and ask what they're doing to help turn things around. The loss to the Cowboys last week happened in part because Wentz and the offense left a bunch of points on the table through the first two-and-a-half quarters, and this team is not equipped to survive periods of ineffectiveness like that.

We'll see what the football character of this group is during the stretch run. It's an uphill battle, but their terrible division will give them a chance to hang around all the same. Let's see if they take it.

The Ugly

• Tre Sullivan committed an offsides penalty on the opening kickoff of the second half. With running starts having been eliminated on those plays, this seems almost impossible. It's the football equivalent of this scene from Friday:


A poorly-coached team relying on guys who don't have the mental fortitude to cut it at this level is not going to go far. You saw that all throughout the game Sunday, with the Eagles extending a Saints drive in the third quarter with a holding penalty in the end zone to boot.

Put this squad out of their misery already.

• Carson Wentz remaining in the game down 48-7 with half a quarter left is so insanely dumb it's hard to properly describe it with words. 

The good news is the Eagles made productive use of that time to build momentum heading into next week's game, with Wentz throwing two interceptions and definitely validating the thought process. Good work all around from the players and coaching staff, they really look like a group on the verge of figuring things out.


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