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January 01, 2023

Handing out 10 awards from the Eagles-Saints game

After building a 13-1 record to start the season, the Philadelphia Eagles have now lost two straight games against the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints, putting their claim to the NFC's top seed in serious jeopardy. As always, win, lose, or tie, we hand out 10 awards.

1) The 'Minsh-Ew' Award 🤢: Gardner Minshew

Minshew played well enough to beat the Cowboys on the road last weekend, which led many to believe that he would be able to take care of business against a 6-9 Saints team facing elimination from the playoffs. That didn't happen, as he looked skittish in the pocket against a Saints pass rush that sacked him six times, and caused him to make several off-target throws or bad decisions. 

On the day, Minshew completed 18 of 32 passes for 274 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT, which doesn't look that bad in print, but the eye test showed quite clearly that there is very sizable difference between what Jalen Hurts is capable of on a football field, and Minshew's limitations. The lowlight of the day came on a pick-six by Marshon Lattimore:

Minshew didn't get a lot of help from his receivers, the offensive line, or an odd coaching plan that put the game on his shoulders instead of on their rushing attack, but Eagles fans have probably seen enough of Minshew mania.

2) The 'Hurry Back' Award 😰: Jalen Hurts

Postgame, Nick Sirianni said that Hurts was close to playing against the Saints. Had the Eagles won, they could have kept Hurts on ice until the divisional round of the playoffs, either on January 21 or 22, three weeks away.

Now? The Eagles are in a situation in which they can no longer err on the side of caution. If Hurts is truly "close," he has to play.

3) The 'Not So Elite' Award 👎: The offensive line

The offensive line committed four false start penalties, one each by Landon Dickerson, Jason Kelce, Isaac Seumalo, and Jack Driscoll. That's kind of unacceptable from a veteran group that is thought of by many as the best offensive line in the NFL.

They also struggled to protect Minshew, as Cameron Jordan had three sacks on the day. It's probably worth noting that Jordan typically would have lined up opposite Lane Johnson for most of the day, had Johnson been available to play.

4) The 'Illegal Pancake' Award 🚫🥞: Landon Dickerson

We should also mention the holding call on Dickerson that wiped out a 28-yard TD run by Kenny Gainwell. This is simply an outstanding block:

My assumption was that the officials meant to to flag Jordan Mailata on the play, but got their numbers mixed up. Had they flagged Mailata, it would have still been a ticky-tack call, but would have at least been somewhat explainable. But nope. The officials apparently did indeed mean to flag Dickerson.

That is certainly not why the Eagles lost this game, but it was a rare moment when the Eagles actually made a play, only to have it taken away from them.

5) The 'Scary Moment' Award 😓: Josh Sweat

Sweat suffered a neck injury on the Saints' opening drive of the game on the following play:

He stayed face down on the grass for several minutes, before being carted off on a stretcher. The Eagles later announced that Sweat had movement in all of his extremities, and was being taken to the hospital for precautionary purposes.

Postgame, the Eagles said that Sweat would be released from the hospital tonight, meaning that he likely avoided a life-changing injury. To be determined the severity of his injury from a football standpoint, and how soon he will be able to play again, but obviously that is a secondary concern.

6) The 'Commanders Formula' Award 🔬: The Saints' offense

The Saints don't have a lot of talent on offense, and they had a depleted offensive line. As such, their gameplan was to run the ball a lot, stay on schedule, convert short third downs, and try to play keepaway from the Eagles' offense. While they did not put many points on the board, they did control time of possession, holding onto the ball for more than 37 minutes vs. 23 minutes for the Eagles.  At one point Andy Dalton and Taysom Hill were a combined 15 for 15, before Dalton eventually made a bad decision on an interception thrown to Josiah Scott.

The Saints' approach was reminiscent of the Commanders' game plan Week 10, when Washington dealt the Eagles their first loss of the season. 

7) The 'Wasted Effort' Award 🗑️: The defensive line

The Eagles' defense would eventually adjust. They began putting the Saints in obvious passing situations, and the defensive line feasted on Dalton, sacking him seven times. Haason Reddick and Brandon Graham had two sacks apiece, while Javon Hargrave, Fletcher Cox, and Milton Williams each chipped in one.

The Eagles as a team now have 68 sacks on the season, four shy of the NFL single-season record of 72, set by the 1984 Bears. They blew right past the Eagles' single-season record of 62 sacks, set in 1989.

The Eagles also became the first team in NFL history to have four players with at least 10 sacks:

Reddick now has 16 sacks, while Hargrave, Sweat and Graham each have 11.

Ultimately, it went to waste because the Eagles' offense couldn't score.

8) The 'Thank You, Doug' Award 🙏: Doug Pederson

The Eagles are lucky to still be in the driver's seat in the NFC East.

Somebody should send Doug some more cheesesteaks.

9) The 'Irony' Award 🤔: The Giants

With their win over the Colts on Sunday, the Giants clinched a playoff berth. Next week, win, lose, or tie, and regardless of what happens around the rest of the NFL, the Giants will be the 6 seed.

The only reason the Giants would have to play their starters Week 18 against the Eagles would be to keep their positive momentum going. Otherwise, it's a completely meaningless game to them. The Eagles may very well benefit from a Giants team resting their starters, which of course would be ironic, given that the Eagles tanked their final regular season game in 2020 against Washington that prevented the Giants from winning an NFC East title.

Of course, beating the Giants' backups would be an uninspiring way of locking down the 1 seed, to say the least.

10) The 'Feast On the Goo' Award 🦠: The Eagles

Is it time for Eagles' fans to crack each others' heads open and feast on the goo inside?

Yeah, probably. 

For the bulk of this season, the Eagles looked like the best team in the NFL. But after a shaky performance against the Bears, and losses in consecutive weeks to the Cowboys and Saints, they barely look playoff-worthy.

The Eagles have a lot of veteran leaders and good chemistry in their locker room, so there is legitimate reason to believe that they can turn things around, but as is they are playing their worst football of the season with the playoffs just around the corner.

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