Eagles-Saints, The Day After
The fortress walls were shaking ever so slightly as Chip Kelly stood in front of his team Saturday afternoon.
Theories about pending locker room implosions and Kelly’s imminent NFL demise fell a few clicks west of reality, but this was a significant moment in time for both the head coach and the 2015 Eagles nevertheless. Early October, and the season already at cliff’s edge. A loss here and they would be charged with the very difficult task of trying to climb out of a 1-4 hole while simultaneously fighting to keep the growing outside skepticism about the operation from finding its way in.
Such was the state of affairs as Kelly addressed the players before they headed for the team hotel.
“He always uses analogies, and he had an analogy about [a fighter],” said linebacker Najee Goode. “When you keep getting hit, you keep getting hit, 1-3 right now…the outside looking in, people are thinking, ‘What’s wrong with the Eagles?’ You keep getting hit. But we’re going to throw the last punch.
“Coach Kelly said, ‘We have to throw the last punch no matter what.’ You’ve gotta take it right in the face and just go straight ahead and knock them the f–k out.”
A survey of the Eagles locker room following their 39-17 win over the Saints revealed a commitment to that cause that started on the individual level and spread outward.
“I think really the mindset of the players was the biggest difference. I think everybody you saw was frustrated with the play, and you can go in one or two directions: either you hunker down and you make sure that you’re making yourself better because that’s really all you can control; or you can be a poison and start screwing up the locker room,” said Jason Kelce. “I think we had a lot of great leadership, we had a lot of guys who really bought in. We didn’t fray, we came in with a great mindset to work every single day and that was really huge for us.”
It took root within position groups as evidenced by the actions of Jason Peters and Lane Johnson, who fought through injuries to help the offensive line put forth its best performance of the season by a wide margin.
“I was just telling Lane, ‘They need us. No sense in us sitting out. If we’re 50-60 percent we still gotta go. We’ve gotta stop this mudslide,'” said Peters. “I told him, ‘We just have to get out there and do what we can do.’ ”
It was reinforced in the showers, of all places, by a beleaguered quarterback to the entire offensive side of the ball just before kickoff.
Everything in its proper perspective. This was a very flawed Saints team that the Eagles were facing. It will take a lot more than a desperation home win over a bad squad before we suggest that this team’s mental construct is ironclad. What can be said is that the “bunker mentality” Billy Davis said the team developed after dropping to 1-3 served them well Sunday, and they’re still standing as a result.
“The message was stay the course,” said Davis. “Even though the wins haven’t come, we are working the right way, we’re doing it the right way. It was going to take everything we have because they are a team that is very talented with their back against the wall also. It was about staying the course and continuing to believe in each other and the system, and it worked out for us.”
The Eagles had just assumed a 17-10 lead midway through the third quarter courtesy of a two-yard Ryan Mathews touchdown run.
Future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Drew Brees dropped back looking to kickstart a game-tying scoring drive. Instead, he was undone by a familiar foe.
“Obviously there’s a lot there momentum-wise,” said Sean Payton. “I don’t know if that was the turning point, but it certainly was one of them.”
On the very next play, Bradford found a wide-open Brent Celek in the end zone to turn a tight game into a comfortable Eagles advantage.
Cox gave credit to the secondary for his success against New Orleans. And as this angle shows, the coverage downfield forced Brees to hitch.
That said, it seemed like a matter of time before Cox broke out. The 24-year-old was far and away the team leader in quarterback hurries with eight entering this week’s game and it was clear to the naked eye that he was wreaking some havoc on the inside. The stars aligned on Sunday. He drew a favorable matchup and got some help from the back end. The result? Three sacks, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, six tackles and a tackle for a loss.
“I hope the outside world recognizes the talent he has,” said Billy Davis. “He is a Pro-Bowl caliber [player]. I’ve been around a long time and that’s what they look like. They play the run, they can get disruption in the passing game. Sack numbers come and go but he’s got the skill set.”
Eagles are 1-0 when Sam Bradford holds team meetings in the shower. https://t.co/tECl6R3cww
— Jake Pavorsky (@JakePavorsky) October 11, 2015
Obviously needs to do it again on Monday night, right?
Fletcher Cox had 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He left the field to a “MVP” chant here in Philly. — James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) October 11, 2015
MVP might be a little lofty, but his is exactly the type of performance that will help lift Cox into the Pro Bowl/All-Pro realm.
Hopped out the hatchback like…. pic.twitter.com/s5WiC2vw4I
— EROCK (@TheMightyEROCK) October 11, 2015
That about sums up the Eagles fans’ mindset heading into this one. Kelly’s gotta be feeling some relief right now, however temporary.
I don’t know if Bennie Logan has enough name recognition to make the Pro Bowl, but he’s playing at a high level this year. Deserves a shot. — Tommy Lawlor (@lawlornfl) October 11, 2015
Agreed. Logan had three tackles for a loss and a sack against New Orleans. He’s been a total menace.
“He had a huge day. A lot of the time he probably doesn’t get all the glory he deserves along with our whole defensive line. Rarely do I have to make tackles deep in the secondary, which is why you see me and Walter Thurmond get a lot of tackles for losses because there’s nowhere for the runner to go. The ball carrier is always going east and west which is easier for us to clean up.”
— Malcolm Jenkins, explaining the type of impact Cox has on the game.
“Yeah, whenever you can get under center and run the ball I think is great and it helps out the offensive line to hide some of our runs.”
— DeMarco Murray, on Kelly’s decision to have Bradford operate from under center more on run plays.
“Defensively, you get that many plays and pretty soon you begin to wear down.”
— Sean Payton, on his defense facing 79 snaps. A good quote to stash away for next time the Eagles’ defense denies being gassed.
“You don’t put your weakest link on Fletcher Cox. You don’t do that. That’s disrespect. I know he felt disrespected and I’m glad he came out victorious like he did.”
— Cedric Thornton, on the Saints electing to put rookie Andrus Peat up against Cox with tackle Terron Armstead sidelined with an injury (via CSN).
For the first time all season, the starting five offensive linemen played the entire game…Zach Ertz has led Brent Celek in snaps in all but one week so far…Josh Huff set a new career high in snaps.
Jordan Hicks has played 269 defensive snaps so far, more than DeMeco Ryans (256) or any other Eagles middle linebacker…Marcus Smith was credited by PFF with two QB hits. His 22 snaps is a new career high…Eric Rowe and Bryan Braman got some work late.