The Eagles’ offense finally showed some signs of life and improvement against the New Orleans Saints, but the the reason the Eagles won this game today was because of the outstanding effort they got from defensive end Fletcher Cox.
Cox played a tremendous game, picking up three sacks, forcing two fumbles, both of which were recovered by the Eagles, both of which led the scored for the Birds.
Cox’s two forced fumbles were game-altering plays that the Eagles desperately needed. With the offense once again struggling to convert on opportunities in the redzone, Cox’s first turnover came late in the second half, setting up the Eagles with a short field and a field goal opportunity that struggling kicker Caleb Sturgis was able to convert.
In the second half, following a touchdown drive from the offense, Cox forced another fumble right as the Saints received the ball back, setting up the Eagles with another short field that the offense was able to convert into a touchdown.
The Eagles went up 23-10, and the error-prone Saints were never able to recover.
Bradford Escapes Early Red Zone Woes
Sam Bradford and the Eagles’ offense were able to move the ball at will on the New Orleans defense throughout the day.
However, Sam’s performance was not without issue.
Bradford killed the Eagles early in the game, turning the ball over twice in the redzone, denying the team two valuable early opportunities for points.
The Eagles’ offense was finally in a rhythm and generating some momentum early in the first quarter. However, Bradford destroyed that with a poorly thrown ball that was intercepted by Brandon Browner in the endzone. The former Ram underthrew a pass to Riley Cooper, and the wide receiver never had a chance to make the play.
On the Eagles’ next possession, the offense once again was able to march down the field, and got themselves into the redzone. But once again, Bradford came up short on a pass intended for Miles Austin, resulting in his second interception of the game. It was another feeble throw on an underthrown ball.
Bradford bounced back to finish with over 300 yards and two touchdowns, but serious concerns remain about him moving forward.
Running Game Finally Works As Advertised
Five games into the season, the Eagles finally got the running game off of the ground.
DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews for over 200 total yards of offense, and each scored a touchdown.
Chip Kelly made a much stronger effort to establish the running game than he had in previous weeks, and took advantage of a soft Saints front seven that wasn’t able to put up much resistance, and wore down as the game went on.
After Murray received just eight carries in a fairly close game against the Washington Redskins a week ago, Kelly gave the highly-paid running back 20 carries and also seven catches out of the backfield.
Murray is a guy who needs to get a high volume of touches to get into the flow of a game and maximize his effectiveness, and Kelly did that today. Mathews was effectively used as a change of pace back, and picked up 73 yards on just eight carries.
Not one to be left out, Darren Sproles also got six touches of his own, picking up several key first downs.
This was the blueprint that a lot of people had envisioned for the Eagles’ running backs this year.
- The Eagles offense finished with 519 yards, easily their best output of the season.
- Josh Huff finally emerged in the offense, tying the game with a 41-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter. Huff registered four grabs for 78 yards on the day.
- The offensive line had their best game of the year, successfully opening up running lanes for Murray and Mathews, and did a solid job protecting Sam Bradford, not allowing a sack until the game was well out of reach for the Saints.
- The other really encouraging sign was the involvement of the tight ends. Zach Ertz and Brent Celek combined for eight catches, 104 yards, and a touchdown. All season, I’ve thought the tight ends have been criminally underutilized by Chip Kelly, and it was refreshing to see him finally take advantage of one of his more talented positions.
- Riley Cooper put up three catches for 32 yards, and was targeted a fairly high amount of times by Bradford.
- Jordan Matthews chipped in five grabs for 44 yards, but drops remain an issue for him. Matthews dropped what should have been a touchdown in the endzone in the first half. The play would have been wiped out by a penalty, but drops have been an issue for him throughout the season and it was troubling to see him continue to struggle.
- Just one catch for five yards for Nelson Agholor, who left the game with an injury.
- Bennie Logan picked up a first quarter sack on Drew Brees, causing a Saints drive to end.
- Think the Saints would like to have Malcolm Jenkins back? High-priced Jairus Byrd isn’t doing too much to help them out.
- Jenkins was solid again for the Eagles today, making several tackles for losses.
- Jenkins’ partner, Walter Thurmond, came down with his third interception of the season late in the game.
- Marcus Smith was active today, and actually played a couple snaps with the defense. He registered one assist on a tackle.
- Jordan Hicks recovered a fumble for the third time this season.
- DeMeco Ryans made just one tackle, but he made it count, knocking the ball loose and creating another New Orleans turnover.
- E.J. Biggers getting more work in nickel package, gave up third-down play in the first quarter. Biggers broke up a pass intended for Brandon Cooks.
- Josh Huff began the game with a strong kickoff return to give the Eagles field position close to midfield.
- Caleb Sturgis missed an extra point, but hit all four of his field goal attempts.
- Donnie Jones only had to punt the football once today.
The Eagles got just what the doctor ordered on Sunday: a matchup against a bad team with even more issues than they have.
The Saints are such a shell of what they once were. Their defense is such an ineffective, penalty-prone group and the offense just isn’t the explosive powerhouse that were a couple of years ago.
The Eagles showed a lot of positives today. They moved the ball at will all game long. Sure, it came against a very poor defense, but it was the kind of performance that this team desperately needed in order to build some legitimate momentum moving into next week.
Whether or not the Eagles can keep this momentum up against tougher defenses remains to be seen, but they were able to take care of business this week and put themselves in a position to battle for first place in the division (again) when the Giants come to town next week.
Follow Denny Basens on Twitter @DennyBasens