This was supposed to be a victory lap, a coronation before an adoring crowd of Eagles’ fans celebrating the NFC East title and this entire magical season.
It was anything but. It was a stunning, 20-10 loss to the Saints, by far the Eagles’ worst game of the season.
Or, several seasons.
It was that bad.
Hey, anyone know those guys wearing the Eagles’ uniforms Sunday? Especially the guys on offense?
You know, midnight green jerseys, white pants, Eagle wings on the helmet?
The Eagles that showed up in the first half certainly weren’t the Eagles we watched all season. You might remember those Eagles — the dominant, swaggering, multi-talented team that could beat you on the ground or through the air.
The team with eight Pro Bowlers. Those guys.
This team, playing without injured starting quarterback Jalen Hurts, rolled out a first-half offensive stink bomb never before seen at the Linc. When they needed scoring drives in the second half, they didn’t get enough.
“We played a really bad game today offensively,” coach Nick Sirianni said.
When quarterback Gardner Minshew, looking like the back-up’s back-up, threw a 12-yard pick-six with 5:27 to play, the Saints increased their lead to 20-10 and put the game on ice.
“Obviously, he’s going to want plays back,” Sirianni said about Minshew. “We’re all going to want plays back … Obviously, 23 [Marshon Lattimore] made a good play on the interception in a critical time.
“Obviously, it wasn’t Gardner’s best game and it wasn’t our best game as an offense and it wasn’t even close.”
A.J. Brown was the intended receiver on the pick-six. Lattimore played off Brown but jumped the route and scored easily.
Yes, the Eagles were without Hurts and right tackle Lane Johnson. But the problems — offensively throughout; on defense in the first half — go beyond the loss of those two Pro Bowlers.
The Eagles’ roster is considered one of the NFL’s best but that talent was pushed around by a 6-9 New Orleans team.
Now, the Eagles are looking at a must-win at home against the Giants next weekend to get the bye. Now, they might be more inclined to play Hurts.
“If Jalen’s ready to go, he’ll go,” Sirianni said, without giving an update on his sprained shoulder.
The Eagles’ second-half offense was better but not good enough. They scored a touchdown on a 78-yard pass from Minshew to Brown, who caught the ball after the Saints defender slightly stumbled. Brown outran three defenders into the end zone. That brought the Eagles back to 13-10 but they got no closer.
- “It was the same stuff,” Minshew said about the offense in the second half. “We just started hitting. Guys were getting open. We were running the ball well. We were protecting.
- “Everybody was doing a good job. We had little things here and there — penalty, take a sack. It’s frustrating when games go like that.”
The Eagles’ fabled offensive line was called for six penalties in the second half — four false starts and a bad-call holding penalty on Landon Dickerson that wiped out a touchdown.
The Eagles struggled to move the ball and the penalties helped kill the drives.
- “Us being not locked in, being a little bit thrown off, obviously not having a lot of reps with Gardner,” Pro Bowl center Jason Kelce said about the offensive line’s penalties. “Professionals, we should be able to handle that. Very upsetting.
- “I’m not even focused on that right now [clinching the division]. I could give two [bleeps] about clinching a first-place seed right now. We got to get a lot of things fixed.”
The Eagles’ initial first down came with 12 seconds to play in the first half.
If it wasn’t for Josiah Scott’s interception with 34 seconds left, the Eagles might have become the only NFL team to NOT register a first down in the first half this season.
If you don’t like to do the math, we ran the numbers for you — three-and-outs on the Eagles’ first four possessions. The time of possession was 22:50 to 7:10 in New Orleans’ favor.
Saints quarterback Andy Dalton picked apart the Eagles with quick slants over the middle. He was 13-of-14 in the first half, the only miss was Scott’s interception. Tight end Taysom Hill even completed both of his passes.
The Eagles ran 17 plays for 61 yards. They had two first downs and Minshew was sacked five times. They had nine rushing yards.
- “We just couldn’t get rolling,” Minshew said. “You just try to get that first first down and we kept just shooting ourselves in the foot and getting in our own way.
- “And they’re a good defense, too. There’s not much room for error when you play a team like that.”
DEFENSE UP AND DOWN
In the second half, the Eagles’ defense dominated, giving the offense a chance to get back into the game. The Eagles had six sacks in the second half. The Saints could barely move the ball, recording six first downs in the second half.
- “I thought Gardner played good enough to win today, if everybody else executes and plays up to the level they’ve been playing at all year, myself included,” Kelce said. “I thought Gardner played fine.”
Simply blaming Minshew — or any individual — for this loss is disingenuous. This was a team loss. There was enough blame to go around.