Even with their two best DBs — safety Jairus Byrd and cornerback Keenan Lewis — back from injury, New Orleans’ defense was the miracle cure for Philadelphia’s offensive woes today. Here are just seven of the many blessings that this game bestowed upon the Birds.
1. The Pass Rush
It helped that the Saints starting left tackle (Terron Armstead) and left guard (Jahri Evans) were out with injuries. But the Eagles took full advantage, with three sacks, four QB hits and 5 tackles for loss just in the first half. (They finished with five, seven and seven for the game.)
Fletcher Cox abused Andrus Peat, Armstead’s replacement at left tackle. He finished with three sacks — and forced fumbles on two of them. Cox recovered one of them himself. Rookie Jordan Hicks, of course, got the other one. He has three fumble recoveries in just his first four games, which has to be an NFL record.
Against a great QB like Drew Brees, this penetration and disruption was crucial for taking control of the game.
2. Caleb Sturgis was a great kicker (mostly).
The goat of last week’s game wasn’t exactly the GOAT this week, but that one guy who picked him sarcastically in fantasy had a very happy surprise. Sturgis drilled four field goals and was the team’s leading scorer.
Sure, he didn’t get a touchback until his fourth kickoff, and Chip Kelly went for it on fourth and seven twice at the beginning of the game just to avoid the pain of watching Sturgis try a FG. But at the end of the first half his 39-yarder was perfect, dead center and with plenty of distance to spare. In the second half, an emboldened Chip Kelly called Sturgis’ number again three more times and he delivered. One was as long as 41 yards!
Of course Sturgis missed an extra point in the second half just to be true to his self. On the flip side, he gets credit for the return of Big Balls Chip. Many don’t realize it, but Kelly’s aggressiveness at Oregon had a lot to do with having bad kickers there too.
3. Excellent pass defense
Yes, New Orleans had some big pass plays. Drew Brees is a lock for the Hall of Fame, and even with Jimmy Graham gone he has some great weapons, notably Brandin Cooks (who Chip Kelly tried to trade up for in the 2014 draft).
But the Birds’ secondary had a great game as a group, including Byron Maxwell (who has taken plenty of Continue Reading