Zone Read: Eagles-Saints, the Day After

Jan 4, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) prepares to throw the ball as Philadelphia Eagles outside linebacker Trent Cole (58) and Eagles defensive end Fletcher Cox (91) chase in the first quarter during the 2013 NFC wild card playoff football game at Lincoln Financial Field. Photo |  Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 4, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) prepares to throw the ball as Philadelphia Eagles outside linebacker Trent Cole (58) and Eagles defensive end Fletcher Cox (91) chase in the first quarter during the 2013 NFC wild card playoff football game at Lincoln Financial Field. Photo | Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Going into Saturday night’s matchup with the Saints, the Eagles’ defensive gameplan focused on daring Sean Payton to take the football out of Drew Brees’ hands.

New Orleans has been a pass-first offense and was playing without its leading rusher in Pierre Thomas. Unlike most weeks, Davis figured he could pay less attention to the run game and instead scheme to limit big plays in the passing game. Payton responded by handing the ball off over and over again to the tune of 36 carries and 185 yards.

“That’s on me,” Davis said. “I made the calls for the passing game to make sure we keep the big plays off us. It was a lot more split safety and a lot more pass-oriented calls, so some of the runs leaked out. I could have called more of a run-based defensive game, shut that down, but we were trying to keep the points down and the big plays off us. So that run game comes down to me, not the players.” Read more »

‘Mental Busts’ Sink Eagles

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Eventually, the Eagles players may find solace in the fact that they overachieved in their first year under Chip Kelly. They might look at the foundation that was built and realize their time and effort was well-invested. But on Saturday night, following a gut-wrenching home playoff loss to the Saints, they were in no mood to feed into that narrative.

Instead, they were struggling with the reality that they had let a very winnable game slip out of their hands.

“We lost to a team that wasn’t necessarily better than us,” said Cary Williams. “They weren’t better than us, but they were better tonight. They got the job done. It was more mental than physical out there, and we had a lot of mental busts.” Read more »

Observations: Saints 26, Eagles 24

Jan 4, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) prepares to throw the ball as Philadelphia Eagles outside linebacker Trent Cole (58) and Eagles defensive end Fletcher Cox (91) chase in the first quarter during the 2013 NFC wild card playoff football game at Lincoln Financial Field. Photo |  Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s what we saw during tonight’s Eagles-Saints game.

OFFENSE

* The Eagles’ offense got going in the second half, but it wasn’t enough as their season ended in a 26-24 loss to the Saints.

* Nick Foles went 23-for-33 for 195 yards and two touchdowns. In the second, he found Riley Cooper for a 10-yard score. And in the fourth, Foles hit Zach Ertz for a 3-yard TD.

* DeSean Jackson was shut out in the first half and targeted just once. It looked like Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis was on him most of the time. But in the third quarter, Lewis went out with a head injury, and with the offense needing a spark, Jackson made a great play on a 50/50 ball for 40 yards. McCoy ended up scoring from 1 yard out on the drive. On the Eagles’ next possession, Jackson had a 29-yard punt return to help set up an Eagles field goal. And in the fourth, he drew a 40-yard pass interference penalty to set up a Foles TD pass.

* LeSean McCoy had trouble getting going with 77 yards on 21 carries.

* Riley Cooper had six catches for 68 yards, but had a costly drop in the third quarter. Cooper was wide open on a crossing route on third down, but couldn’t hang on to a perfectly-placed Foles pass. The Eagles ended up punting.

Read more »

Bold Eagles Predictions: The Birds Will Beat the Saints

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1. The Eagles are the hottest team in the NFL

The post-season belongs to the hottest team in the league, the one that goes into the playoffs with the best second-half record. This year, that team is the Eagles, who’ve gone 7 and 1 since the break. Over that span, the Eagles have scored 266 points and won their games by an average of nearly two touchdowns, 33-21.

The rest of Larry Mendte’s 8 reasons after the jump »

All-22: When Foles Holds On To the Ball

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Asked earlier this week why the Eagles’ passing game stalled in the second half against Dallas, Chip Kelly pointed to two factors – neither of which had anything to do with Nick Foles.

“They did a decent job generating the pass rush on a couple things, and there were a few times down the field where we just couldn’t get off of some jams,” Kelly said. “It was a combination of the two things.”

Kelly has not hesitated to criticize Foles in the past – when warranted. After the Vikings game, for example, he labeled the quarterback’s play inconsistent.

So was he protecting his quarterback here, or did he really feel like the breakdowns had more to do with protections and the receivers?

Based on the tape, it’s the latter. On most occasions when Foles held on to the ball, he didn’t have anywhere to go with it. For examples, let’s go to the All-22. Read more »

Inside Voices: Wolff Says He’s Ready

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Oakland Raiders
Earl Wolff
says he feels good enough to play on Saturday night. Now it’s just a matter of whether the training staff and coaches give him the green light.

The rookie safety sat out practice the past two days but tested the injured right knee on the side during the Eagles’ walkthrough on Thursday, and came away feeling confident that he is ready to re-enter the fray.

“I just know that it felt a lot better today than it did before. They kind of recorded me moving around a little bit, doing some functional stuff, and it didn’t bother me,” he said.

“It was football activitity, basically like what I would go through in a game, and it didn’t really bother me. Of course I felt it a little bit –I’m going to feel it a little bit — but it’s nothing that’s going to hold me back.” Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: ‘We’re Hot Right Now’

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As far as LeSean McCoy is concerned, it all makes sense.

The way he sees it is pretty simple: The Eagles are talented, they put in the work all season long, they stayed healthy, and now they are in position to make some noise in the postseason.

“We’re made for the playoffs,” McCoy said. “Everybody’s so excited for us to be here, but we should be here. Everybody’s so excited about us being division champs, but I think we should be. We prepared hard each game. We have so much talent on this team. And the way we prepare, we prepare to be the champs of this division. And we prepare to win this game. The Saints are a good team for sure. They have a very explosive offense and a solid defense, but I think the guys in this locker room, the coaches we have, we can get the job done.” Read more »

Wake-Up Call: The Brees-Foles Connection

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In his time at Westlake High School, Nick Foles established records for career passing yards (5,658) and touchdowns (56). That’s particularly impressive because the previous owner of those records was Drew Brees.

Foles is 24 years old and Brees is 34. By the time Foles was ready for high school, Brees was already a couple years deep into his NFL career. Though they both grew up in Austin, Texas, they didn’t actually meet until last season when the Eagles played at the Saints.

But that’s not to say that Brees had no impact on Foles’ journey. Read more »

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