While the Saints do technically have the “worst” defense in the league, you would not have been able to tell from their Monday night performance. Say what you want about Steve Spagnuolo, but this man knows what he is doing on defense. His unit, like any other good defensive one, attacked the weakness of the Philadelphia Eagles- their offensive line. Dennis Kelly was manhandled by Cameron Jordan upfront, Demetress Bell struggled after filling in for Todd Herremans, Dallas Reynolds was burnt by a couple of double A-gap blitzes, King Dunlap looked helpless at times with Will Smith, even Brent Celek failed to chip on some guys (which is something he usually does very well). McCoy darn near killed himself picking up the pressure for Michael Vick. Had he not been there, the sack total would have climbed from 7 to upwards of 10. Everyone knows that Vick can run, but there is not much he can do when there is instantaneous pressure in his face. The Philadelphia Eagles are getting killed up front. Arizona exploited this early in Week 3, and Steve Spagnuolo seized the opportunity and helped his team put together their best game of the season.
I’ll talk first about the Saints. This was easily their best game of the year. Drew Brees looked like Drew Brees again, the Saints found the running game that they have been looking for for a very long time now, and as I already mentioned- their defense actually looked like it belonged at the NFL level in this game. For the benefit of those who did not see this game, I will say that out of five red zone possessions for Philadelphia, they only scored… yes SCORED two times; two field goals to be specific. Patrick Robinson returned an interception for a TD in the first quarter because if a tipped pass. Brent Celek fumbled deep in the red zone in the fourth quarter and the Eagles turned it over on downs on the fifth attempt. The yards were still there, but for the first time this season the Saints held their opponent to under 24 points. The only mistake they made was when they allowed DeSean Jackson to sprint for a 77-yard TD in the third quarter. They did fumble the ball away two times, but in the end it did not cost them. Congrats to the Saints for pulling off a complete game.
Now on to the bigger problem: The Eagles. This is something that I should have stated earlier but their 3-5 record is not Michael Vick’s fault. If I was Jeffrey Lurie I wouldn’t be pointing the finger at either of them. I hate blaming an entire team’s problems on one facet of the game but in this case I believe that it is necessary. I am of course speaking of their offensive line. They do get a little bit of the benefit of the doubt. With the injury to Herremans Monday, they were playing with only one of their starting day o-linemen. There is not much a quarterback can do without an offensive line. The score of the game reflects that very idea. In my opinion the Eagles defense did not play too badly. I think they should blitz a little bit more but that’s another topic for another day. The Saint’s offense was only able to score 21 points. Brandon Graham made his name known with his strip sack that resulted in a New Orleans turnover. David Sims played pretty well (I thought). He was beat a few times by Jimmy Graham, but that is to be expected when you are a 2nd year player making your first start. He tackled better than Nnamdi Asomugha, who simply looked over-matched. Anyways, circling back to my original point, this whole thing is not Michael Vick’s fault. I know a lot of people would disagree but it is as I said before: there is not much any quarterback can do without an offensive line. If you go back and watch most of his fumbles from this year you will realize that most of them are because of pressure. It is not like he is holding onto the ball too long or anything. There have been instances where he has just gotten the ball in his hands and he is already running for his life. Even on three step drops he’s taking colossal hits. Something needs to change in Philly. They cannot handle any kind of pressure. Personally if I was a defensive coordinator, I would blitz Vick about 65% of the time. He never has picked up the blitz very well, and couple that with an ineffective offensive line and you have yourself a match made in heaven (unless your an Eagles fan).
It is clear that Andy Reid will most likely not be in Philadelphia if he is unable to win six out of the next eight games. The coaching is not a problem though. I would say the weakest link of the chain is Todd Bowles and come on, he has only coached two games so far. Bobby April (special teams coordinator) drew up a brilliant special teams fake in the third quarter. He had Riley Cooper laying down in the end zone and Brandon Boykin running the kick back. Boykin was supposed to lateral to Cooper and he would take it to the house, but instead Boykin threw the ball forward and was penalized for an illegal forward pass. That play, to me, is the Eagles’ season in a nutshell: tremendous craft of a play but poor execution. It may not be the coaches decisions in Philly after all. The players may need to execute better.
This was a solid win for the Saints. The way things are shaping up in the NFC it is very possible that a Wild Card team can make the playoffs with a record of 9-7. The Saints are in the same position as the Eagles are: winning six of eight can put them in a position to make the playoffs. It is still too early to discount any of these teams yet. Each have big divisional battles this upcoming weekend and need to win if they want a shot in the end. The big story from Monday night: the Saints are able to salvage their season, and the Eagles have some major problems as we move along into Week 10.