Four Downs: Philadelphia’s Dominant Defense
The Eagles beat the Saints, 39-17, for their second win of the season. Here’s what we saw.
MOST TELLING STAT: 4
That’s how many takeaways the Eagles had. Fletcher Cox forced two fumbles, in addition to recovering one and sacking Drew Brees three times. He generated a great one-man pass rush and took advantage of a Saints’ offensive line that was without two starters. DeMeco Ryans also forced a fumble, which Byron Maxwell recovered, and Walter Thurmond intercepted a pass.
The secondary played well early on, but gave up a couple of big plays. Nolan Carroll allowed a 59-yard catch while Malcolm Jenkins gave up a 46-yard completion. The Eagles’ biggest miscue was when Jordan Hicks wasn’t lined up properly on Ben Watson’s touchdown catch. It appeared, however, that Hicks initially went to cover Watson before moving back toward the middle of the field while communicating with the secondary.
Outside of the two big plays, the Eagles’ coverage was pretty good. E.J. Biggers even ran stride-for-stride with a receiver on a go route, and Carroll played well besides Willie Snead‘s big play.
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The Eagles’ offensive line was much better today. They consistently gave Sam Bradford a great pocket to throw from, and were better when run blocking. They still allowed too much penetration, which Matt Tobin seemed to do much more than anyone else. When Ryan Mathews lost five yard on 3rd-and-goal, it appeared Tobin was the lineman beaten.
Jason Kelce was also pushed far into the backfield on one play, but he was better overall. The center helped spring Mathews for a big run with a great cut-block. Brent Celek was also better, as he helped open up big running lanes for Mathews too. As for the running backs, this game will surely reignite the debate of whether Mathews fits the Eagles’ offense better than DeMarco Murray.
Mathews did seem to have better holes than Murray to run through, but he also did more with the space he was given. He was shifty in the open field and finished with eight carries for 73 yards and a touchdown. Murray, meanwhile, also ran for a touchdown along with 20 carries for 83 yards.
Sam Bradford’s passer rating was pretty good, but his performance was not. He threw two costly interceptions in the end zone and consistently underthrew his receivers. Bradford was once again hurt by drops, but he also missed his targets on a few intermediate throws that could’ve resulted in touchdowns.
He certainly got better as the game progressed, but even on his completions he didn’t lead his receivers, forcing them stop their route to come back to the ball. Bradford took a step back after last week’s loss, but he did develop a better rhythm in the second half. He completed 32 of his 45 pass attempts for 333 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
The Eagles needed this win. The Saints aren’t a good team, and a quarter of the season is already over. They needed to show signs of progress — even against a weak opponent — and they did. Although Bradford could’ve played better and the receivers are still dropping way too many passes, there are a few significant positives.
Philadelphia’s defense was dominant with four takeaways, the offensive line was better and the running backs had their best game by far as the Eagles averaged 5.5 yards per carry. If they can make it two in a row next week against the Giants, they could propel themselves to the top of the NFC East.