Eagles Fall To Saints on Last-Second Field Goal

Cary Williams and his teammates are stunned after heartbreaking loss to the Saints. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Cary Williams and his teammates are stunned after heartbreaking loss to the Saints. Photo by Webster Riddick.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

New Orleans Saints kicker Shayne Graham kicks the game-winning field goal. Photo by Webster Riddick.

New Orleans Saints kicker Shayne Graham kicks the game-winning field goal. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—The worst thing about facing a team with a playoff losing streak is that you hope it doesn’t end when that team plays your squad.

The New Orleans Saints came into Saturday’s NFC Wild Card Playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field against the Eagles having never won a playoff game as the visiting team.

The Saints road playoff woes came to an abrupt halt in their last-second 26-24 win over a stunned Eagles squad in front of 69,144 fans who were hoping their team would make a deep run into the postseason.

“I just think that everybody is disappointed that we’re not moving forward,” said head coach Chip Kelly.

In a game in which the lead changed hands five times, Shayne Graham’s 32-yard field goal with time running out ended what was a surprisingly good season for the Eagles. New Orleans will take on the Seattle Seahawks in a divisional playoff matchup next week.

The loss was especially painful to an Eagles team that felt they were a better team than New Orleans.  At the end of the day, the Birds also know that they have themselves to blame.

“Even when they were up 20-7, I felt like we were going to win the game the whole time,” said left tackle Jason Peters.  “We just didn’t pull it out. I felt like we were the better team. We were moving the ball on their defense. We just stalled out on a couple of third and shorts and we had to clear them out.”

After the Eagles had taken a 24-23 lead on a three-yard touchdown pass from Nick Foles to tight end Zach Ertz with 4:58 left, the Saints got a 39-yard kickoff return from Darren Sproles, who appeared to be headed for a touchdown if not for an illegal horse-collar tackle by cornerback Cary Williams.

While Williams tackle kept Sproles from scoring, the Eagles were penalized 15-yards which moved the ball to the Eagles 48. He said it was the only thing he could do to keep Sproles from scoring.

“I did whatever I could to get the guy down. I’m the safety valve,” Williams said. “(Sproles) broke outside the contain.  It was just me and him out there. I made the best decision I possibly could. My thoughts were I was just trying to get him down. It didn’t matter whether it was a horse collar or whatever. I didn’t want him to score to at least give our defense the opportunity to stop them.”

The Saints forced the Eagles to take their final two timeouts while moving the ball down to the Birds 14 and running down the clock to three second to set up Graham’s field goal.

“It sucks because there was nothing we could do, but watch,” said Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, who gained 77 yards on 21 carries. “They killed us slowly. It was a terrible feeling.”

In what was a close game, the Eagles had their issues on both sides of the football. The offense, which averaged over 400 yards during the regular season, was sluggish and inconsistent in the first half and much of the third quarter.

“We just weren’t executing,” said Foles, who complete 23-of-33 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns. “I was missing throws and the Saints was doing a great job. We just weren’t executing as an offense.”

After getting a pair of Drew Brees interceptions in the first half, the Eagles offense couldn’t take advantage. Oddly enough, the Eagles had a 7-6 lead at the half thanks to a 10-yard touchdown pass from Foles to wide receiver Riley Cooper.

But the Eagles also missed a 48-yard field goal and the offense had hard time getting out of its own way.

Early in the second quarter, the Birds drove down to the Saints 15. But lost huge chunks of yardage on a botched tight end screen that cost them eight yards and a sack on Foles that cost them another 11 yards. Two plays later, Henery missed that 48-yard field goal.

“We need to come away with seven instead of three to begin with and we ended up kicking a field goal,” Kelly said. “I think they did a better job of executing in those situations and their red zone defense was better than our offense.”

The Saints surged to a 20-7 third quarter lead by scoring a pair of touchdowns—a2 4-yard touchdown pass from Brees to Lance Moore and a four-yard run by running back Mark Ingram.

New Orleans was able to move out in front because of its running game which kept the Eagles defense on its heels. The Saints rushed for 185 yards on the ground with 97 coming from Ingram.

“That was the story of the game,” said Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin. “We have been keeping teams under 100 yards all season long. This was the wrong game to give up a good rusher. It was way too much and it showed on that last drive.”

The Eagles recovered from their offensive funk late in the third quarter and scored 10 straight points to cut the lead to 20-17.  The Saints would add a field goal, but the Eagles last drive to put them ahead.

The frustrating part for the Eagles offense things didn’t really get things moving until late in the game.

“It was very frustrating, we had lot of opportunities that the defense put in our favor,” said Eagles center Jason Kelce. “We just didn’t get it done offensively. It took a long time to get it going.”

NFC Wild Card Playoff: Can the Eagles Stop Drew Brees and the Powerful Saints Offense?

 

SaintsversusEagles

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

The Eagles have to figure out a way to stop Drew Brees and the Saints offense in Saturday's NFC Wildcard Playoff game. Photo by Neworleanssaints.com.

The Eagles have to figure out a way to stop Drew Brees and the Saints offense in Saturday’s NFC Wildcard Playoff game. Photo by Neworleanssaints.com.

PHILADELPHIA—After beating the Dallas Cowboys to win the NFC East and surviving the rigors of an elimination game, the Eagles open their playoff run at Lincoln Financial Field Saturday night against Drew Brees and the potent New Orleans Saints offense.

While Eagles fans can take comfort in the fact that the Saints have never won a playoff game on the road, were 3-5 on the road in the regular season and that dome teams are 3-25 in road playoff games when the temperature dips below 35 degrees, the Birds players and coaches can’t.

The Eagles are expecting the Saints come out to come out on all cylinders and then some.

“They’re a good football and like any good team, they don’t let those outside factors get to them,” said Eagles inside linebacker Mychal Kendrick.  “They’re going to come in here, they’re going to try and play a really good game no matter what the situation is and that’s just what it is.”

On the defensive side of the football, the Eagles will be facing the league’s No. 2 passing offense, led by Brees and a host of playmakers including tight end Jimmy Graham, who has 16 touchdown passes.

“This offense is so efficient and it is run on Drew Brees and his decision-making and quick release,” said Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis. “He really makes you defend the field both horizontally and vertically because all five of his eligible receivers are up and active. …they stretch you horizontally and vertically.”

For an Eagles secondary that’s had to go up against some of the league’s best receivers like Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant, it’s another monumental challenge. Eagles cornerback Cary Williams said he nor the Eagles secondary is fazed by the caliber of talent lined up against him.

“I’m going to play my game, regardless,” Williams said. “I could care less what Drew Brees does with his release. I’m going to be in the guy’s (receiver’s) face, I’m going to disrupt the timing and I’m going to try my best to play 60 minutes as tough as I possibly can.”

What makes this Saints team a difficult challenge for the Eagles is their array of weapons from Graham to wide receiver Marques Colston or even speedy running back Darren Sproles, who caught 71 passes coming out of the backfield during the regular season.

So how do you cover those guys, especially when you have a quarterback like Brees who gets the ball out to his playmakers with the blink of an eye? Do you man up one-on-one and get physical? Should you lay back and play zone?

“I think the key is to change up that type of coverage and it’s more about the quarterback than the actual coverage and what he’s looking at, what he sees and how quick he can read it,” Davis said. “He’s seen every coverage and he’s seen all kinds of different tactics and then so has Sean (Payton, Saints head coach).

“They’ve got adjustments to everything.”

The Eagles are going to have to figure out a way to disrupt Brees timing in the passing game even if they can’t get physically close to touching him. That means pass rushers are going to have to be like basketball shot-blockers and put their hands in the air.

“It’s definitely one of those things where you have to get after him and try to rattle him a little bit,” said Eagles linebacker Brandon Graham. “That’s one of the challenges we have every week is who’s going to get to the quarterback and how many times. I think it will definitely change the game if we can get there a couple of times.”

If there’s a weakness in the Saints offense is that they don’t run the football very well. They are averaging 91 yards per game running the football with backs like Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Sproles.

Considering what Brees can do in the passing game, the Eagles seemed to be more concerned about the Saints backs as receivers.

“That’s going to be our task at hand to handle them coming out of the backfield,” Kendrick said. “Those guys are quick, agile and they can get into small spaces.”

Eagles Hope to Get their Groove Back Against the Saints

Michael Vick  said he wants to get his swagger back as the dual threat quarterback that can make things happen with his arm and his legs. But he has to take care of the football. Photo by Webster Riddick.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

Eagles quarterback Michael Vick has always prided himself on playing with a certain level of swag. In last Sunday’s loss to the Atlanta Falcons, the Birds had their mojo beaten out of them on both sides of the ball.

At the rate this season going, the Eagles are in need of every form of self-help, positive thinking book to salvage a season that is rapidly deteriorating into a disaster.  In Monday’s road game against the New Orleans Saints, the 3-4 Birds are in another must-win situation.

“It’s very important to get back on the winning side and start to turn things around and just go from there,” said cornerback Dominique Rogers-Cromartie. “The main thing is to just get wins.”

After a week of speculation about his starting job, Vick said he wants to go back to his free-wheeling style of his days as the “Michael Vick Experience” or better yet back to 2010 when his resurgence took the league by storm with his strong arm and ability to run. But can he do it without turning over the football?

“That’s not what I’m talking about. It’s just, I think I’ve got to play my style of football [and] at the same time, still take care of the football and not be reckless with it,” Vick said on Saturday.  “Be aggressive; the way we played last week, we’ve got to be us.   We’ve got a personality as a football team and we’ve got to let it show.”

That also seems to be the mindset of offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.  He said the offense while mistake free  last week, it was a bit of tentative the Falcons.

“Now, we’re always aggressive. I’m just talking about that aggressive mentality and that makes you just a little bit more dynamic,” Mornhinweg said. “I know what you’re saying; however, the last ballgame, I thought we were just a little bit too careful with our mentality and it’s just that simple. We’ve got to play loose and free and we’ve talked about that. Just simply unafraid to make a mistake; if we make one, we correct it.”

Even in the midst of a very loud Louisiana Superdome, Vick and the offense will be going up against a Saints defense that ranks dead last in total defense, giving up a whopping 474.7 per game. New Orleans is 31st against pass and dead last in the league in giving up rushing yardage.

If the offense is going to be as aggressive as Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg say it’s going to be, this is the perfect defense for Vick and company to carve up, especially in the running game with LeSean McCoy.

It’s going to be important that the Eagles offense score and stay on the field often because if they don’t, Drew Brees is going pick the Eagles defense apart in the same fashion as Matt Ryan did last week.

Brees, who recently broke Johnny Unitas’ streak for consecutive games throwing touchdown passes, is the NFL’s 10th rated passer and when he’s on he is difficult to stop. The Saints have the league’s top-rated passing offense.

“They attack you with the running backs, the tight ends, and the wide receivers. You got to have a good overall game plan against them, and you have to hope that he is off a little bit,” said defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.  “You have to hope they are a little bit worn down. He’s been tough for years now. It’s not just this game. He’s been tough against everybody. They are the number one pass offense in the league for a reason.”

The Eagles are hoping to have another defensive lineman back in their rotation with the return of defensive tackle Mike Patterson, who was activated  after missing most of this year because of his brain surgery that was triggered by a seizure last season at the Eagles training camp at Lehigh University.

“He did a good job. He moved around well and there were no symptoms [from the] surgery he had with his head and brain. He’s felt good. He’s felt good all the way through workouts and then once he came out here he felt good, “Reid said

Patterson is hoping to be part of line of defenders that can ill afford to allow Brees to play pitch and catch with wide receiver Marques Colston and tight end Jimmy Graham. The mission for the defense is to figure out a way to disrupt Brees.

For this defense, it’s a mission that is a lot easier said than done.

“You’ve got to try to get there as fast as you can and try to put some form of pressure on him. Listen, he gets the ball out very fast,” Reid said.  “He’s one of the best in the business against the blitz, against the straight pressure, and [a] great timing quarterback. He does a great job with that.”