It’s pretty easy to look at the final score of the week 11 Saints loss and feel like the Eagles got blown out of the water.
They did, 48 to 7, but it’s worth mentioning that they were only down 10 points at the four-minute mark in the second quarter, driving down the field on a six-play possession that moved the Birds into New Orleans territory. They had just followed up a six-play, 75 yard scoring drive by forcing a three and out on defense, and the Eagles really did have momentum on their side.
What happened next?
Carson Wentz was sacked for a ten yard loss, the Eagles punted, and that was the game right there.
Still, it was a glimmer of hope from an otherwise feckless performance in Louisiana, and something to look at when thinking about Sunday’s rematch. All of the post-game talk back then revolved around giving up 48 points in the Superdome, but the Eagles offensive inexplicably put up a smelly clunker against a Saints defense that really was average across the board.
That’s my biggest focal point for Sunday, the fact that the Saints are not exactly the Chicago Bears, as you can see here in their regular season defensive rankings:
- 14th in total defense (349 yards per game)
- 29th in pass defense (269 YPG)
- 2nd in rush defense (80.2 YPG)
- 14th in scoring defense (22 points allowed per game)
- 22nd in first downs allowed (333)
- 6th worst in penalty first downs allowed (37)
- 24th in opponent third down conversion rate (41.3%)
- 9th in opponent fourth down conversion rate (14-29 for 48%)
- 29th in yards per pass allowed (8.1)
- 22nd in pass touchdowns allowed (30)
- 26th in completion percentage allowed (67%)
- 18th in interceptions (12)
- 5th in sacks (49)
- 27th in limiting opponent passer rating (100.3)
- 2nd in yards per rush allowed (3.6)
- 10th in rushing touchdowns allowed (12)
- 13th in total takeaways (24)
They’re good at stopping the run but a below-average pass defense team.
These league ranks and numbers were similar in week 11, but Carson Wentz went out and put up a three-interception performance instead:
He just didn’t have it. 156 total yards while going 0-5 for three picks on passes of 20+ yards. There were only three targets for Zach Ertz, Stefen Wisniewski filled in for Jason Kelce because of injury, and Darren Sproles wasn’t available. Kind of a strange/meh/forgettable game all around.
After this win, the Saints went on to allow 377 yards to Matt Ryan the very next week. Dak Prescott threw for 249 the following week. And after that loss in Dallas, Ben Roethlisberger managed 380 yards in the dome just two weeks later.
So they’re not a juggernaut passing defense, certainly not. That Wentz performance as an aberration when you look through the New Orleans box scores and see what they conceded to other NFL quarterbacks.
Nick Foles should be able to throw on this team. He’s been more accurate than Carson and better on third downs, a category in which the Eagles went just 3-10 in New Orleans while suffering one of their few time of possession losses this year, a lopsided 37 to 23 minute margin. That’s not going to happen again.
If you’re trying to pull something positive from the week 11 game film, you could look at the success the Eagles had on their lone scoring drive, when Doug Pederson linked together a couple of runs and some play-action passes:
Pass/run/pass, some play-action, then great blocking on the Adams touchdown run.
He had 53 ground yards on seven carries before the Eagles fell behind even further and abandoned the run game.
It’s true that the Eagles didn’t run particularly well last weekend in Chicago, just 1.8 yards per carry, but they committed to the run game enough that they were able to show offensive balance. New Orleans defends the run really well, but if you keep them honest enough to get the play-action game going, that’s going to be a huge boon.
Jimmy Kempski over at Voice parsed a few more defensive stats:
Saints' pass defense isn't awesome… pic.twitter.com/CuGHaImJYj
— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) January 9, 2019
They give up a lot in the passing game. Nick should be able to do some damage here.
I think that’s the biggest reason to believe that the Eagles could be competitive this week. It was one thing to talk about giving up 48 points the first time around, but the real story was how Wentz and the offense couldn’t do jack shit back then, which kept a banged-up and exhausted defense on the field. They certainly can’t be any worse than they were the first time, so if the defense makes enough stops, the Eagles might be able to score enough to keep this game tight heading into the fourth quarter.