Saints take advantage of free-falling Eagles

Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson intercepts first-quarter pass that he returned 99 yards for the game's first score.
Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson intercepts first-quarter pass that he returned 99 yards for the game's first score. (RON CORTES / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: November 07, 2012

NEW ORLEANS - Anything can happen now.

Anything except a merciful end to this still just half-finished Eagles season, that is.

Given a chance to get their playoff quest back on track last night, one day after everybody else in the NFC East lost, the now 3-5 Eagles sank to previously unexplored depths. In the wake of the players-only meeting, after Michael Vick vowed to get back to aggressive play, after all the discussion of how the New Orleans Saints had the worst statistical defense in the NFL, the Eagles stank out the Mercedes Benz Superdome, losing 28-13, their fourth setback in a row.

How deep is the crater this morning? In the first quarter, as the offensive line repeatedly left Vick defenseless, a tweet apparently from his brother Marcus read: “Please trade my brother. We requesting out of Philly!!! Please please please …”

The trade deadline has passed, so that, like so much else, is not going to happen.

After the game, Michael Vick said he was unaware of his brother’s tweet.

“That’s something I’ll really have to address once I leave here,” said Vick, who completed 22 of 41 passes for 272 yards, a touchdown, and a pick. He was sacked seven times, and ran six times for 53 yards. “We’re out there fighting as hard as we can, giving it everything we’ve got. That (wanting out) is certainly not the case here.”

Eagles coach Andy Reid said Vick will remain the starter.

The evening, and maybe the season, in a nutshell: Second Eagles possession, a 40-yard Bryce Brown run gives the Birds first and goal at the Saints’ 5. Two plays later, Vick’s high pass for Brent Celek – who seemed to be struggling to get out of a hold by a linebacker – was tipped by Celek straight into the hands of New Orleans corner Patrick Robinson, who took it 99 yards for a touchdown, the first points of the game.

“Honestly, I’m lost for words,” said Celek, who figured in both Eagles red zone turnovers, fumbling the ball away in the fourth quarter. “I didn’t help us at all. Basically, one tipped off my hand, I had the fumble. That’s terrible.

“The effort, the toughness, that’s there. We’re just making mistakes … we just gotta stick together, keep playing hard, things’ll start going our way … I’m just disappointed in myself. I feel like I let a lot of people down, let the city down.”

So, the worst statistical defense through seven games in NFL history scored a touchdown to put the Saints ahead.

Maybe the Eagles could somehow dig their way out of that. Next drive, a 34-yard LeSean McCoy run gave the Birds first down at the Saints’ 4, even after the awful offensive line situation got much worse, Todd Herremans going down with an ankle tendon injury, replaced by Demetress Bell. No gain on a Brown run. Shovel pass to McCoy completely snuffed, no hole, Eagles lucky not to turn ball over. Third down, pass to DeSean Jackson off the mark. A 22-yard Alex Henery field goal seemed like an empty accomplishment, given the context.

It was about to get a whole lot emptier. The Saints got the ball and just shredded the Birds’ defensive line with a previously unremarkable running game, which was missing Darren Sproles. Seven plays, 76 yards, including a 23-yarder by Mark Ingram on which the former Alabama star ran through a Pinkstonesque Nnamdi Asomugha and then a 22-yard TD run by Chris Ivory during which the left side of the Eagles’ line seemed to be trying to evacuate the building.

“We were arm-grabbing, and they ran through tackles,” said Eagles defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who is off to a really memorable start. “We were hitting them at the line of scrimmage, in the backfield, and they were running for 8, 10 yards. Want-to and knowhow. That’s Pee-Wee 101, you gotta be able to tackle to play this game. That’s all it is.”

So, the Saints had a 14-3 lead and their six-time Pro Bowl QB, Drew Brees, had done pretty much nothing.

Brees remedied that on the next drive, seven plays 74 yards capped by a 1-yard touchdown pass to Marques Colston that extended Brees’ NFL record to 51 successive games with a TD toss. Twenty-one-to-flipping-three, and it wasn’t even halftime.

At halftime, the Eagles had 9 fewer yards than the Saints – 207 to New Orleans’ 216 – but 18 fewer points, which seemed more pertinent.

Fans were wondering if they would see Nick Foles for the third quarter. Instead, they saw an improbable and ultimately unsuccessful comeback attempt. The Saints seemed to be marching for yet another touchdown when fan whipping boy Brandon Graham forced and recovered a Brees fumble, the Eagles’ first fumble recovery since the second game of the season. To provide some context, that was then the Birds were unbeaten.

Two plays later, Vick and DeSean Jackson hooked up for Jackson’s second touchdown of the season, 77 yards, and it was 21-10. Got even more interesting when Chris Polk forced a fumble on the kickoff and Brandon Hughes recovered it on the Saints’ 22. A touchdown and the columnists and commentators might have had to unfire a bunch of people they fired at halftime. But after a Vick run to the 8, reality intruded. Throwaway, sack, incomplete to Jeremy Maclin in the back of the end zone. Another field goal. Still, 21-13, not impossible.

But if not getting the TD there slowed the Eagles’ momentum, Brees completely destroyed it with a 10-play, 70-yard drive that ended with a 6-yard TD pass to tight end Jimmy Graham and a 28-13 Saints lead.

As several Eagles noted afterward, going 0-for-5 in the red zone kept the Eagles from having the kind of offensive evening they anticipated. Somehow, 447 total yards produced 13 points, which ought to be impossible.

At that point, the Saints had punted all of twice, eight days after the Falcons scored on the first six possessions of Bowles’ tenure as defensive coordinator. Apparently, Juan Castillo took the tackling manual with him when he left.

“It’s tough to put that performance out there today,” defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. “We’ve got to do more than words. I can stand up here, put together perfect sentences, give you guys perfect answers, sound intelligent as I want to, but it all comes down to whether we put it together on (gameday), whether we come out and make plays.”

Asked if the Eagles are good enough, Jenkins said: “Yeah, we’re good enough. That’s the most important part of it … We’re talented at every position. We’re just not doing it.”

Birdseed: Nate Allen (hamstring) was unable to play. David Sims got his first NFL snaps as a safety and they weren’t real pretty. Sims had plenty of company there, of course … In case you’re scoring at home, left guard Evan Mathis is the only member of the 2011 Eagles offensive line still upright … The Eagles were awful in the red zone, two turnovers, two field goals … When they got the ball back with a minute and 54 seconds left, the Eagles had run for 217 yards, thrown for 183, when you factored in the sacks … LeSean McCoy gained 119 yards on 19 carries, but the holes that gaped in the open field closed quickly in the red zone.


Contact Les Bowen at bowenl@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @LesBowen. For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' blog at eagletarian.com.

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