February 6, 2023

Eagles Fall to Saints Thanks to Many Blown Opportunities

Matt Slocum/AP Photo

Well, that was ugly.

The Eagles lost to the Saints by a score of 20-10 to fall to a 13-3 record for the season. The Eagles blew a chance to secure the NFC East division crown and the NFC’s first seed. Now, with just one game left in the season, the Eagles will have to play their starters against the Giants, as they need a win to secure a bye and home-field advantage in the playoffs. If the Eagles lose next week, they will most likely fall to the number five seed and will have to go on the road in the first round of the playoffs.

After beating the Bears, the Eagles needed just one win for the one seed, and we have yet to get it.

The Eagles also hurt their draft stock today, as they own the Saints’ first-round pick. If the Eagles won today, it was very likely that the pick would be in the top 10 of the draft. Now, there is a chance it will be in the teens.

Minshew Struggles

Gardner Minshew finished the day 18/32 for 274 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. While the stats are bad, watching it was even worse. Minshew had opportunities to hit open receivers on key 3rd down situations and sailed the throws. He was constantly throwing balls behind receivers in the middle of the field, and his accuracy as a whole was all over the place. In the first half of the game, the offense was only able to get two first downs, as three-and-out sequences were unfortunate ‘norms.’ Simply, that is just unacceptable for an offense with as much talent as the Eagles have.

Even with all his struggles today, Minshew still had a chance to win the game. Instead, he stared down A.J. Brown and threw a pick-six in what turned out to be the Eagles’ final opportunity to foster a comeback. Brown said after the game he was trying to get Minshew’s attention to change the play before the snap, but Minshew didn’t see him, then threw the interception. Over Minshew’s career, he has been good at not turning the ball over, but he has three interceptions in two starts so far this season.

There has been a ton of talk about whether the Eagles’ success has been from their team, “system,” or MVP-contender Jalen Hurts. After today, it’s pretty safe to say that Hurts is one of the main reasons why this team was 13-1 before his injury. These last two games should improve his MVP candidacy.

Coaching Miscues

In arguably the biggest game of the season so far the Eagles came out flat. The Saints marched right down the field off the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Then the Eagles’ offense went three-and-out. While Minshew was not good at all, the offensive playcalling did not do much to help him out. Miles Sanders only had 12 carries against one of the worst run defenses in the NFL, and most of those came in the second half. With a backup QB in the game, teams usually try to get the running game involved more rather than less.

Right before halftime, the FOX broadcast brought up a almost impossible stat: Over the last two games, opposing QBs had been 35/36 against the Eagles’ zone defense. Last week against the Cowboys, Dak Prescott had a 100% completion percentage against the zone.

So why come out the next game and do the exact same thing?

The only incompletion was Josiah Scott’s interception. It seemed that the defense started to play more man in the second half, but it’s concerning that teams have been that efficient against their zone coverage.

The Eagles have struggled with false-start penalties all season, and the coaching staff has yet to find a way to get it corrected. On one drive, the offense had three false-start penalties. Those kinds of pre-snap penalties are drive-killers and are beyond unacceptable in crucial games like these.

The Playoff Picture

While today’s loss was extremely disappointing, the Eagles still control their own destiny. With a win against the Giants next week, the Eagles can clinch the NFC’s number one seed along with the NFC East. If the Eagles lose next week, they can still win the NFC East with a Cowboys loss next week. They can also still secure the one seed with a loss next week by having the Vikings lose one of their next two games, the 49ers lose one of the next two games, and the Cowboys lose their last game of the season against the Commanders. If the Eagles lose the division and number one seed, they would be the five seed, matching them up with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the divisional round. But of course, a lot could change in week 18. They would also most likely not be able to host a playoff game and lose the bye week.

The point, well, is that beating the Giants would be beneficial in various ways.

Head Coach Nick Sirianni said that QB Jalen Hurts was close to playing today, but they agreed to prioritize his health. Hopefully, Hurts will be good to go next week in the most important game of the regular season.

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