Tag Archives: New Orleans Saints

Eagles Still Searching for Answers on Offense

10 Oct

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and The Philadelphia Sunday Sun

DeMarco Murray is looking to have a breakout game against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. Photo by Webster Riddick.

DeMarco Murray is looking to have a breakout game against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. Photo by Webster Riddick.

In the Philadelphia Eagles’ first four games this season, they have only played three halves of good football and have just one win.
That’s due to an offensive line that keeps allowing penetration into the backfield, which has led to a poor running game, which has led to the Eagles not being able to get anything else started offensively.

As a team, the Eagles are averaging just 3.1 yards on the ground. Running back DeMarco Murray, who led the NFL in rushing last season as the featured back for the Dallas Cowboys, has just 47 yards on 29 carries and is averaging just 1.6 yards per carry.

After the Birds 23-20 loss to the Washington Redskins, Murray complained about not getting enough carries. Considering how abysmally the offensive line has performed to this point, more carries for Murray or any of the other running backs may not help.

I’m not so sure things are going to get any better when they take on the New Orleans Saints at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday because this already much maligned offensive line is riddled with injuries. Left tackle Jason Peters left the Washington game with a quadriceps strain and it’s uncertain whether he will play on Sunday because he didn’t practice on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

Right tackle Lane Johnson played with a sprained knee and has had limited participation in practice. But even before those injuries, the Eagles haven’t gotten the running game going all season.

Center Jason Kelce said it’s been a frustrating season so far and doesn’t see things getting any better for the offense at this point.

“Really, the only reason we’re losing football games is because of offensive mistakes, penalties and frankly, not being able to run-block well and move the football,” Kelce said.”We haven’t adjusted well in game situations, we’ve gotten frazzled, when guys slant across our face we don’t handle it well. When teams blitz us, we’re not on the same page. It hasn’t been a unified offense.”

Eagles’ offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur attributes the offense’s slow start in games on the Birds inability to convert on third down situations, especially on third and long. The Eagles tied for last in the NFL in third down conversion percentage.

“I think what happens is we don’t convert on third down. You see in the second half where we’ve been able to kind of stay on the field and extend drives and score points. We converted on third down,” Shurmur said.
“Now there are multiple reasons for that. It could be a longer third down because you didn’t do so well on first or second, orit could be a manageable third down and you don’t execute that play,” Shurmur said. “So it’s a combination of things. We’re searching to make sure we get that right.”

Getting it right has been a huge challenge for the Eagles offense so far this season. In one of those few halves in which the offense has gotten into a rhythm, it’s been the Eagles passing game that’s got the offense going.

That was the case in the game against Washington where Sam Bradford completed a pair of touchdown passes that went beyond 40 yards and helped the Eagles take the lead in the fourth quarter.

Maybe the Eagles need to pass to set up the run, something that head coach Chip Kelly alluded to in his Wednesday press conference. Kelly said the Eagles inability to convert on third down comes from falling behind on first and second down.

“We’ve got to make sure we’ve got some quick throws, maybe we can get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands that are nice, easy throws to kind of get going,” Kelly said. “I think with this group, once you establish and can get into a rhythm, we can be pretty good.”

That’s something the Eagles have to do starting with the first quarter and they have to maintain that rhythm for the full 60 minutes.

(Today’s column is dedicated to the late J. Whyatt Mondesire, Publisher

and CEO of the Philadelphia Sunday Sun who passed away last Sunday)

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Eagles Fall To Saints on Last-Second Field Goal

5 Jan
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?

31 Dec

 

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.”