What the hell was that?
It was a disaster.
And now the Eagles have painted themselves into a corner where they missed two of their three chances to lock down the No. 1 in the NFC playoff bracket, and if they screw up the last one… well, we’re not even going to go there.
Here are our 10 instant observations from the Eagles’ pathetic 20-10 loss to the Saints at the Linc.
1. The most worrying thing for me wasn’t the loss and more the fact that the Saints were the better prepared team, the more intense team, the more physical team from the start of the game. Not the better team, but whatever. They played like they were the ones chasing a No. 1 seed, and the Eagles played like a 6-9 team desperate to make the playoffs. This is a Saints team that was going 2-5 and they were the attacker on offense and defense. By the end of the second quarter, the Saints had beaten the Eagles 252-21, leading 13-0, Andy Dalton still hadn’t thrown an incomplete pass and the Eagles had no first downs. What the hell is that? You can’t talk like you’re a Super Bowl contender and then you let a 6-9 team come into your building and jump you like that. Yes, injuries, I understand that. But we’re talking effort here, and the Eagles didn’t have it in the first half, and that’s squarely down to Nick Sirianni and his coaching staff. Unacceptable. Inexcusable. Sure, they woke up in the second half and started making some plays and tightened it up for a while. Who cares. It’s a 60 minute game, and if you don’t bother to make it halfway through those 60 minutes, you’re not going to win many games. This team is damn lucky they still have a chance to grab the No. 1 and obviously they’re a different team with Jalen Hurts behind the middle. But I don’t care who the quarterback is. If they come out and play like this again, they don’t hit anyone.
2. I said this week that I have great faith in Gardner Minshew and that I consider him one of the top two or three backups in the NFL. I was wrong. I was really wrong. He was terrible. He didn’t handle pressure well, he held the ball for too long, he didn’t checkdown when they were there, he didn’t see receivers wide open and when he had a chance to mount a dramatic rally, he could He didn’t go an inch in 4th and 1st place, and then he blew every chance the Eagles had to come back and win with that ridiculous pick-6 he threw to Marshon Lattimore. He’s here for a reason. To win this game. Holding it down until Jalen Hurts heals. This? That was awful. That was something of Mike McMahon. I found Minshew decent. I was absolutely wrong.
3. The Giants’ win against the Colts at the Meadowlands on Sunday secured the No. 6 seed, leaving next week’s game meaningless to them. It will be interesting to see what Brian Daboll does. I’m sure he’d happily give his starters a break if he had the opportunity for an unexpected reunion, but given the Eagles’ 48-22 win last month, would he want to prepare his team for the postseason by saying tried this 26- point loss? Probably the former. If you’re the Eagles, you’d love the opportunity to lock down a #1 seed by beating a couple Giants backups. You couldn’t ask for an easier route to a first-round bye. It looks kind of cheesy. But if you’re the Eagles, take it at this point and run.
4. Jalen Hurts should be ready to play next week – he should be – but this isn’t an ideal situation. Because now it’s not about getting him maybe a series or two so he’s not rusty after a two-week layoff. Now you’ve got to lean on that kid to win a game or the Eagles will screw up what, not too long ago, was a 98 percent chance of becoming the NFC No. 1. I have no doubt that Hurts will rise to the occasion, but it’s also a bit scary because this is a kid who’s gotten a pretty bad injury and the last thing you want is him out there to be exposed to excessive risk. But I’ll tell you what. If you’d told me in August that all the Eagles had to do to lock out the No. 1 is beat a Giants team that’s probably playing their backups, you would have signed up for it. Now that’s no great consolation.
5. Landon Dickerson didn’t hold onto that. This is called a pancake block. It’s legal. That absurd call that threw out a 28-yard touchdown run by Kenny Gainwell in the third quarter was a disgrace. That would have cut the Saints’ lead to 13-7. There was nothing in that block that even resembled holding. How do you make that call?
6. One thing you really have to appreciate about this team is the passing pressure they consistently generate. Dalton is rarely fired. He had been sacked 18 times in 12 games coming into this game, but the Eagles got him six times and they added a seventh time on Taysom Hill. Last week they sacked Dak Prescott six times after he was only sacked 12 times in nine games. That’s 68 sacks this year for the Eagles, the fourth-highest in NFL history and the most since the Vikings had 71 in 1989. Five more break the NFL record of 72 set by the Bears in 1984. Whatever else is going on with this team, this front creates intense pressure that keeps them in games. The Eagles will obviously miss Josh Sweat while he’s out, but they’re so deep and so versatile and so productive. They’ve been particularly effective lately, with an absurd 32 sacks in their last five games. That’s three more than last year in 17 games. Last week, they became the first team in NFL history to have six sacks in four straight games. That’s five in a row now. An incredible group.
7. It’s hard to believe that neither Darius Slay nor James Bradberry have had an interception in their last eight games. The first eight, each had three. Slay’s last INT was in week 6 before Cooper Rush. Bradberry’s last INT was in Week 8 in Houston. After 13 passes in their first nine games, the Eagles have four in their last seven — two from Josiah Scott and one each from Reed Blankenship and Sweat. With the pressure that front creates, the opportunities are there, but if they’ve been given chances lately, they haven’t taken them. Slay was fighting. Bradberry gave up a 58-yarder on Sunday. With the injuries they have in high school, the Eagles need Slay and Bradberry to be more consistent and productive.
8th. No one was in a celebratory mood, but it was nice to see Brandon Graham finally hit double digit sacks in his 13th season. He recorded two sacks on Sunday to give him 11 with one game left. That sack made the Eagles the first team since sacks became an official statistic in 1982 to have four players with double-digit sacks. With Josh Sweat’s status unknown after that terrifying neck injury, the Eagles will need BG more than ever and the way he’s playing he’ll be up to the task. Honestly, we all thought this was going to be a bye season for Graham, but if Howie Roseman can get the numbers working there’s no reason not to bring him back for a 14th season. The guy is having his best season ever at 34 after coming off a blown out Achilles. Unbelievable.
9. Maybe it’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but on their first possession, the Saints had a 2nd and 6 at the Eagles’ 13-yard line. Andy Dalton incomplete pitched and the Saints were called downfield for an illegal man. In that situation, you’d rather have a 3rd and 6th than a 2nd and 11th, but Sirianni took the penalty, the Saints converted and quickly went 7-0 up in what turned out to be their only offensive touchdown.
10 In the first half of the season, it was hard to imagine a better cornerback game than the Eagles got from Darius Slay and James Bradberry. After eight games, they were the only corners in the league to hold opposing quarterbacks at a sub-50 passer rating when they aimed — Slay’s 37.2 and Bradberry’s 35.9. They each had three interceptions and a total of 18 pass knockdowns. They have no interceptions and 10 knockdowns in their last eight games. Slay hasn’t looked like this in a long time. QBs have a 134.2 passer rating that has had him targeted since Week 9 and Bradberry had dropped to 69.7 – still good but not where he was. And on Sunday they once again had no effect. Dalton had his way – 18 for 22? – against the Eagles’ secondary, and Bradberry passed a 58-yarder to Rashid Shaheed. The Eagles will face some elite QBs in the playoffs, and Slay and Bradberry need to be better.