Zone Read: Eagles-Saints, the Day After

FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS

1. After a loss like this, conversation often turns to: Which side of the ball is most to blame? But there’s no easy answer to that question. The offense scored 24 points and gave the Eagles the lead late in the fourth quarter, but felt like it could have done more.




"I feel like we let the team down," McCoy said. "The first half we couldn't do anything. We didn't capitalize on any of the turnovers we got. We won the turnover battle and we could have done more."

Added Kelce: "Early on we had a lot of opportunities that the defense put in our favor and we just didn’t get it done offensively. It took too long to get going."

Foles completed 23 of 33 passes for 195 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers. On the final offensive drive, he completed 3 of 4 for 21 yards and also had the 40-yard gain on the pass interference. Like the rest of the offense, Foles started out slow, but got going in the second half.

2. Of course, the defense and special teams can't be let off the hook either. New Orleans scored on four of five second-half possessions, and the defense couldn't come up with a stop late in the game after the offense gave the Eagles the lead.

Special teams might have been the biggest disappointment on the team all season long. Kelly made it an emphasis during the offseason, but this group let the Eagles down on too many occasions. Henery missed a 48-yard field goal, and Darren Sproles had the big return to give the Saints great field position at the end.

3. If you're wondering why Earl Wolff didn't play, it was because he couldn't practice during the week.

"I didn’t get a lot of physical reps at practice," Wolff said. "I feel just as a young guy, it’s kind of difficult. They don’t want to put me in a situation where I guess I go out there and not necessarily won’t know what’s going on but just I haven’t had a whole lot of snaps."

Wolff didn't find out until Saturday that he would be active. Davis said he was only going to use the rookie if he had to.

Patrick Chung gave up a 40-yard completion to Robert Meachem in the fourth quarter and continued to struggle in coverage.

Wolff will continue to get healthy and will likely be competing for a starting job next summer.

4. If you want to talk offseason needs, the one that comes to mind off the top of my head is pass-rush. Cole got going in the second half of the season, and Barwin provides excellent versatility, but the Eagles could use someone who can really get after the quarterback. That could mean an outside linebacker or even a defensive lineman. The sense I get is that Davis doesn't want to have to blitz as much as he did this season.

Another area to keep an eye on is wide receiver. Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper are both free agents. The Eagles very well could look to upgrade at the slot position also with Jason Avant.

And of course, as always, there's safety. Nate Allen is a free agent, and Wolff should compete. But given what's asked of that position nowadays - play the run, cover tight ends, play center field - the Eagles have to be on the lookout for a talent upgrade.

5. On behalf of myself and Tim, just wanted to thank you all for joining in. We feel like Birds 24/7 made the second-year leap, and it was a fun season to cover the team. More people read the site in August and December than ever before.

As you know by now, we'll be going strong all offseason. We'll keep an eye on the rest of the playoffs, free agency, the draft and more. We'll be in attendance at the Senior Bowl, the scouting combine and the owners' meetings.

So thanks for all the support, and continue to come back in the weeks and months ahead!

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  • GW.Fisher

    By far my favorite site. Can’t wait to see you guys cover an Eagles Superbowl season…

  • OldDocRoss

    I’m too gutted/hungover just now to offer anything insightful on the game, but just wanted to say a huge thanks to Sheil and Tim for all their work this season.

    The level of coverage and analysis you guys offer is genuinely phenomenal and you’ve made this place a “must visit” for Eagles fans over the last couple of years.

    Again, thanks.

  • addicted2mula

    Exactly what I said before the game. They need to do screens why abandon it. 3 the last two games that’s RIDICULOUS. And they gave up big plays all year why change the Defense plan now! Which bit them in the ass. Horse collar instead of six? I would’ve at least let my offense have a chance to win the game instead of the Defense

    • GEAGLE

      Defensive players aren’t wired to think like that in that situation…they expect to stop the offense, so you can’t expect Cary to let them score a TD on that return…it just doesn’t work that way

      • addicted2mula

        I understand but come on horse collar tackle over a dive tackle ATTEMPT

        • GEAGLE

          Miss a dive tackle and they score a TD…in a CB mind, he wants to shut that down, and he wants to be on the field to stop the offense to win the game…

          Now after they killed all our Time Outs..at some point, I would have allowed them to just score….but you can’t ask Cary to not bring down the ball carrier in that situation by any means neccessary! to stop him from scoring

          • addicted2mula

            There’s a lot of tackles where its miss and they score but they don’t force a penalty unless its early in the game.

    • Byter

      Screens weren’t working because teams were not blitzing as much. In the offseason, the team has to upgrade their passing game including scheme, routes, reads, and when to pull trigger or not. Foles has to become a better scrambler. Brees isn’t fast but he knew when to pull the ball down and make a positive play. Chip is excellent in the run game and needs to get better in the pass game.

      • addicted2mula

        Doesn’t matter if they are blitzing or not. Continue to do it and keep them on there toes. Fake one side go to the other or regular screens. Not WR or TE screens

        • Mr. Magee

          Good point. Chip stuck w TE screen long after opposing teams had it figured out.

          • addicted2mula

            Exactly! I understand it worked sometimes but why not let a fast McCoy run behind blocks. I felt McCoy needed to touch the ball 25 30+. And we didn’t see a lot of motions.

  • Birdbrain77

    This is the FIRST thing I read in the morning, followed by Tommy’s site then maybe I’ll head over to beat writers. Fantastic job gentlemen! I’m spoiled now, please keep this thing goin.

  • Tom w

    Maybe people will let up on the dline after reading that article. Defense didn’t lost his game. You take away saints passing plays for the first half, leave them w 6 points, and two turnovers. The coaches expect the offense to put up more than 7 in first half which would forced saints to throw into our nickel in second half instead of run. Offense took 3 quarters to get going and left at least 10 pts on the field in first. Should have been 17-6 at half w the ball. Not 7-6. Offense chip oline wrs let us down and put our defense in a tough spot in the second half — basically having to retreat from perfect gameplan bc your offense didn’t score enough at home! To force saints to throw into the nickel and stop kicking fgs.

    • GEAGLE

      We lost because of a Kicker and because the Oline and Running backs didn’t get it done…PERIOD!…defense played as well as it could have, considering we played the saints with No safety help…don’t like how little Polk and Bryce played..shady struggle, give them different stylistic backs to worry about…we already knew our safeties ain’t good enough

      • aub32

        You mean the kicker missed a kick that should have been 20 yards closer. The kicker is an easy scape goat, but the offense let us down. At no point this season did any of us say, “good thing our STs is so dominant.” The offense was expected to be the best unit, and they had the worse showing, based on what’s expected. They should have put that game away in the first half. However, despite the D playing fantastically in the first; they only scored once. Foles & Co. let us down.

      • Tom w

        Their kicker best us more so than our kicker IMO. Entire offense didn’t get it done for 3 quarters… Took too long to figure out Ryan’s defense… Believe avant said that too. Same thing happened at cowboys and Vikings … 3 outta 4 games we were too inconsistent too long on offense and didn’t get a great push up front. Also Casey barely played and way way too much avant and 3 wide last nite. Guess chip wanted to throw it more but that obviously didn’t work. Same as vikes game.

        • Mr. Magee

          I think chip wanted to run it, but saints did good job taking it away (O line not effective). Don’t think foles had a great game either (at least not till Q4, when it was too late).

      • Tom w

        You shouting at me or agreeing w me ?? Can’t tell.

    • Richard Colton

      Yeah. I doubt you’ll find someone willing to pin this loss solely on the DL. Eagles weren’t blitzing, so it would have been helpful if we could have gotten more of a push up front on passing downs. Not to mention being blown off the ball on some of the short-yardage sitiuations. Overall – I’ve been very impressed with their development this year.

      • JofreyRice

        Nah, team loss, but I think to completely exonerate the defense is misguided, as well. Kudos for limiting Graham, but Brees was off, to be honest; under/overthrowing balls most of the night. Regardless of the strategy, the D missed 10 tackles, compared with 2 missed tackles for the Saints, and as Barwin said above, couldn’t stop the Saints when everyone knew they were running.

        I’m impressed with the defensive development, for sure. This looks more like a couple of fixable problems than a complete disaster.

        • Richard Colton

          agreed. last off season we were looking at a gut-job. Now its a coat of paint and some appliances.

        • Token

          Yea Brees missed one or two TD passes.

          But in the end the D got timely turnovers. If the offense performed in the first half we would have won. Maybe handily. Saints would of had to abandon the run, playing right into Davis’s plan.

          Just didnt happen.

          I think overall Davis has done a way better job than I thought possible. With a group that severely lacks talent. They have holes that need filled for sure.

          The Eagles really could have used a ILB last night when they were getting run over in the middle.

          • JofreyRice

            yeah, can’t have your two ILBs missing that many tackles and losing guys in coverage.

      • Maggie

        Sunday evening: I’ll bet the Green Bay boards are filled with nearly identical comments! Sometimes things just don’t work. I agree about next year. Looks promising. Have to keep up with mock drafts and combine again. Got to fill the empty hours with something, lol.

    • morgan c

      Dude, it’s 24-23 with 4 and change left. Defense and ST have to finish the job, or at least give offense a final chance. One thing I found interesting was BD (via Les Bowen) saying that even on final drive, they still paid attention to Graham and Sproles in passing game. Just a terrible call there. Giving up a 40 yard completion at least gives us the ball back. Giving up 4 minutes of them running it down our throats is just inexcusable.

      Defense overachieved all year for sure. And yes, offense could have done more. But you just can’t get away that we HAD THE LEAD in the end. Offense, as bad as they were, got the job down in the 4th quarter. Defense has to hold. End of story.

      • Mr. Magee

        Morgan, your 1st par is absolutely spot on – quite surprising that chip and Davis did not alter the strategy in the last 5 mins. But I think overall the D played well enough to win – the offense let too many opportunities go by.

      • Tom w

        Your making no sense. The saints needed twenty yards to get in range at all. U still need to play pass there as the saints were still freaking throwing!! Rewatch the game. They hit Colston for 9 yds and sproles short. I agree after they got within the 25 yd line we shoulda stopped Ingram/Robinson but that doesn’t make the dline horrible or Logan or Thornton bums like you were saying yesterday. And special team hurt us w field position not the defense. And just stop w giving up a long td to get ball back. You don’t play that way that is just idiotic. By all your statements you are just purely second guessing and really have no idea what you are talking about on the offense or defense. You don’t know the routes on offense nor did you know they were playing nickel all game. Your just bitching and whining like some dope on Philly.com. It’s annoying.

    • Mr. Magee

      We’ll said

  • EaglefaninAZ

    Thanks so much for the greatest, most intelligent Eagles coverage on the planet. You guys rock is all.

  • Andy

    This is the ONLY Eagles site I read these days. Wish it weren’t here already, but I’m looking forward to top-notch offseason coverage from Birds 24/7.

  • TheGhostofNormVanBrocklin

    I’m going to chime in with everyone else and thank Tim and Sheil for their hard work and top-notch coverage. Now I’ve got to go back to being productive at work. Boo!

  • nicksaenz1

    A few things (or more than a few):

    1) Thank you Tim and Sheil. A great site that is my only stop for Eagles reading and continues to get better. Great work and please never leave.

    2) I went to the game last night. Despite the outcome, couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Didn’t sit once. Lost my voice. I’ve never had a better time at a game. Such an intense energy.

    3) No one player/play lost us this game. The offense couldn’t get going or figure out Rob Ryan’s D in the first half, which means the two turnovers couldn’t be fully capitalized on. The league’s 5th ranked run D couldn’t stop Mark F’n Ingram. Watching Mark Ingram thrash your D in person is even more frustrating that from your TV, trust me.

    4) Experience wins. Usually does. However, we got a taste of the playoffs and this team is going to be better for it. The program is in place at every level, from the FO to the smoothies. Players will have all offseason to go through their individual workouts and come back to camp as fine-tuned machines while the FO makes some moves to upgrade parts.

    5) I hate Roc Carmichael, the player. I don’t know the person. As soon as he came in for CW I looked at my buddy and said he’s about to get picked on. Sure enough, he did. He’s on the short list of names I hope I don’t see next on the roster come spring camp. Aside from measurables, I’ll never understand Chip’s love for him. He sucks.

    6) Speaking of the short list…. In order: Chung, Chung, Coleman, Carmichael, Chung, Anderson, Damaris Johnson. Allen has been moved to honorable mention. I don’t want to kick him as much as I used to and understand we actually need to put safeties on the field. Since I hate the other safeties not named Wolff far more, I’m alright with Allen. Damion Square is building a case to make my short list.

    7) We’re in a great spot as a franchise, a year before we thought we’d be there. We’re all upset we lost, but there’s so much to look forward to now. We’re set at some key positions, most importantly, QB.

    • Richard Colton

      I like your list. I’m going to add Chung, if that’s OK.

      • nicksaenz1

        I originally had him on the list three more times, so, by all means, add him as many more times as you see fit.

    • OldDocRoss

      I’d agree with pretty much all of this.

      The loss hurts like hell but we’re in a great spot as a franchise. At the start of the year the main things I wanted to see were:

      1. Proof Kelly’s O could work in the NFL.
      2. Decent enough play at QB that we wouldn’t be forced to draft for need at that position.
      3. Evidence that the D was improving as the season went on.

      They’ve more than delivered on all of those things, plus the last couple of drafts look good so that’ll hopefully help ease the pain over the next few days.

      On the downside, Damaris is definitely on The List and is probably one of the bigger disappointments for me. I thought he was a guy who “wasn’t being put in a position to succeed” but it now appears he may just be pants.

      And yes, your list needs more Chung.

      • nicksaenz1

        I’ve never liked Damaris, but I wanted to see if Chip could make something of him. He just isn’t good. All there is to it.

  • davev

    thanks for this article. It made me realize the biggest mistake was the eagles not going all out to stop the run in the last drive (put eight in the box). The one thing you can’t do is allow a team to run for first downs at the end of the game which eat up the clock. Billy Davis gets an F for his lack of strategy on the final drive. So they score through the air. At least the Eagles and their biggest strength, the offense, get a last chance to win. Not sure if he is a long term answer for def. coordinator. He lacks strategic thinking. Plus against playoff caliber teams you can’t play one dimensional (stop the pass) because I don’t care what their season stats are they are good at all aspects of the game.

    • morgan c

      Plus 1000.

    • Maggie

      The biggest mistakes were on the offensive side of the ball. Over and over. Questionable calls, bad execution, dropped pass or two, rookie quarterback. And really bad blocking half the time.

    • Marilyn Monbroe

      You cant put 8 in the box with drew brees and our secondary. This was the best we could expect. We all knew that the offense had to put up 30 to win.

  • phillyfanatic

    Three wishes for the off-season:
    Clinton Ha Ha Dix
    Jarius Byrd
    Brian Orakpo

    • Justin

      I want HaHa Clinton-Dix just because of his name.

      • SvelteGodzilla

        EVERYONE should want Ha Ha Clinton-Dix because of his name.

  • Philip Soloninka

    And Jason Peters: “Just stay together. It’s a start. He
    thanked us for the season we had this year for him, his first year. And
    we told him it ain’t over. It’s the beginning.”

    F yes.

  • morgan c

    I don’t get the Wolff thing at all. If he’s active, he’s playing. Period. Playing injured, he gives us more than Chung who is absolutely a terrible football player that shouldn’t even be a back-up. Either make him inactive, or throw him out there. He reinjures his knee – so be it. That’s the nature of the game. These guys get paid to put themselves on the line and he has the whole offseason off. Nothing to lose putting him out there.

    • Mr. Magee

      Yeah, very strange that he was active but did not take the field… What’s the point?

    • Token

      Yea wonder if we ever find out the truth about the Wolff thing. The team thinks he was healthy a couple weeks ago. Wanted him back in the Bears game. He refused.

      I cant count on him now. 2 months he was out. Obviously the injury itself couldnt have been that bad or they would have IRed him to open up the roster spot.

      Just a strange situation. I think at very least hes in the doghouse.

      We really dont even know how good he is yet. Chung makes anyone, except Allen, look good in comparison. He showed promise for a young safety. And maybe would be a good pairing with Byrd. But this injury thing was off putting. Guess we will see.

      • Maggie

        Maybe it had more to do with keeping Chung on the field for some internal reason. For all we know, it might have had little to do with Wolff.

  • Kev_H

    Maybe time of possession matters in the NFL where you don’t get a month to rest up for your bowl game. Eagles’ defense sure looked worn out from wire to wire especially on QB sneaks.

  • bret

    we’re missing the big picture…..with 2 minutes left and the saints in the red zone….with the eagles up one point…..JUST LET THEM FLIPPING SCORE SO YOU GET THE BALL BACK AND HAVE ENOUGH TIME TO DO SOMETHING!!!!! you know they at least have the field goal locked up….so give them the touch down, because a return TD and extra point WIN the game….versus grabbing your ankles and letting them run out the clock and win with a chip shot. I was screaming at the tv last night wondering what they were (or in this case, weren’t) thinking….. bad coaching decision. let them score, and then at least you know the ball is in YOUR hands to win or lose. not theirs.

  • Token

    We may have forgot theres a bunch of holes to fill.

    Also theres a TON of garbage on this roster. I expect Chip to dump a bunch of guys this offseason and replace. The Casey Matthews of the world. The Jeff Maehls. The other so called ST aces that cant play a NFL position, and frankly didnt make a impact on ST anyway.

    All the draft picks will make the roster and a bunch of UDFAs and probably a decent number of middle to lower level FAs as well. Chip will be forming the roster more.

    Its a big testament to the coaching staff they were able to get a playoff berth and a division title out of this group in one season.

    But honestly next year could be a bit of a let down. I expect us to improve for certain. But this years schedule was easy. We didnt do well against the few playoff teams we played. Next years schedule is brutal. Luckily the NFC East doesnt inspire much fear.

    • Maggie

      Unfortunately there are simply not enough quality safeties or ILB’s or even ST players to go around, not to forget WR’s. There are a number of other teams all looking to fill the same positions, don’t forget. it may only be possible to dump half at a time.

  • BullCityEagle

    Thanks guys for the coverage all year. Discovered the site in August and have been addicted ever since.

  • FMWarner

    Thanks for all the fantastic coverage this year, guys. Best Eagles site there is.

    I’m still gutted like everyone else, but generally I think the defense is off the hook. Sure, it’s a loss and everyone could have done better, but I think if we were told beforehand that the Saints would score 26, we’d all be feeling good. I think the offensive inefficiency in the first half is a bigger contributor to the loss because a better performance would have changed the dynamic that the defense was dealing with.

    I hate to say it because I like him, but Foles’ indecision is the biggest reason for this loss. He took some unconscionable sacks in the first half that cost us at least 3 points and also committed two intentional grounding penalties. I understand that judiciously taking some sacks is why his interception rate is so low, and that’s great. But he was not judicious yesterday. There are other reasons for this loss (Cooper’s drop comes to mind), but that’s the biggest.

    The Eagles appear to be in a good position relative to the rest of the NFC East for a couple of years, and I appreciate the fact that the team is on the rise as Jason Peters alluded to. But every trip to the playoffs is an opportunity that may not come again, and I believe the days of building a team to become a champion over two or three years is over. That’s why it hurts in a way that the playoff losses in 2001 and 2002 didn’t.

  • Johnny_P

    You can’t draft a kicker in the fourth round only to have him miss big time kicks and not be able to boot the ball into the back of the endzone. I never believe in wasting a draft pick on a kicker, more often than not you can snag reliable kicker in free agency (Ie Dan Bailey)

  • bill

    No one’s mentioning it, but the snap counts for WRs is screaming something about Chip Kelly’s preferences at the position. They have been for the last few weeks. And I think that information is important in determining the Eagles’ offseason moves. Pretty clear to me that Maclin and Jackson are NOT going to be #1 and #2 next year. Heck, there’s an argument to be made that Jackson was not the pure #1 WR this year. I’d actually like to see Mac back, and Jackson should still be an explosive player and see plenty of snaps, but there’s no way that the Eagles don’t have Cooper + another big WR, or multiple other big WRs brought in to replace Cooper if they let him walk. If Maclin is resigned, he’s got to be the slot guy, at least part of the time.

    More than anything else, though, it’s clear that they need to upgrade WR 4. Sure, STs is important for those guys, but you’d like to see at least some production there based on mismatches, etc. Not only did those guys not produce, they barely even saw the field this year. Depth at WR is something that I expect that they will focus on this offseason.

  • Tim

    Just want to say that this site has quickly become the definitive Eagles site out there. It’s been a pleasure following you guys!

  • Bird of Prey

    I can’t complain really. What was the Saints record w/out Payton and before Ryan last year? They are great coaches with seasoned vets that are perennial contenders, and we still almost won. Some of us received emails that Shiel and Tim were starting a new site with phillymag and they asked us to come over and just check them out. I did, and have been very happy ever since. The best part was all of the rest of you who made it fun to be an Eagle fan talking to Eagle fans who are really interested in what is going on with the team. There was an occasional troll who got kicked back to the other site where they belong, but thanks guys for the great conversations we had this year. I can’t wait until the draft and F/A, August can’t come too soon!