Top takeaways from Philadelphia Eagles Week 17 loss versus Saints

Gardner Minshew, Philadelphia Eagles (Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)
Gardner Minshew, Philadelphia Eagles (Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports) /

It was an ugly Sunday in the City of Brotherly Love as the Philadelphia Eagles lost to the New Orleans Saints by a 20-10 margin. The defense held the visiting team’s offense to 13 points (and they held them scoreless in the second half), but there were rough moments. The secondary was carved up by Andy Dalton early. Philly’s backup quarterback Gardner Minshew threw a pick-six late to help seal the deal.

Losing the game means the Eagles have just one more chance of winning the NFC East and securing the number one seed in the NFC. They’re assured of a playoff spot, but having the first-round bye would give the Eagles’ wounded more time to heal.

Let’s focus on some of the positives and negatives from the loss as the Eagles get ready to prepare for the New York Giants in Week 18. After all, there’s much to discuss.

The Philadelphia Eagles’ secondary was awful much too often.

In Week 16, the Philadelphia Eagles allowed Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott to complete 27 of his 35 passes (and throw for 347 yards and three touchdowns in the process). Philly’s secondary wasn’t much better on Sunday.

Saints quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Taysum Hill had a relatively easy time completing passes. Dalton connected on 18 of 22 passes for 204 yards. He also threw a pick. Taysom Hill completed both of his pass attempts. Both combined for a remarkable 83% completion percentage. That’s unacceptable regardless of who the opposing quarterback is.

Philadelphia’s interception was the result of Josiah Scott’s efforts, but a lackluster performance and defensive scheme put the Eagles in a 13-0 hole early. Injuries to Avonte Maddox and C.J. Gardner-Johnson are a big reason for some of the struggles, but this secondary must be better than they played on Sunday. If not, this team is doomed when they play better teams.

The Philadelphia Eagles’ defensive line nearly won the game by themselves.

As bad as the secondary was at times, the defensive line helped make up for some of the deficiencies. In total, the guys up front racked up seven sacks versus the Saints. Haason Reddick and Brandon Graham led the way with two apiece. Reddick is now up to 16 sacks on the season. He’s second only to San Francisco 49ers star Nick Bosa.

The Eagles have racked up 68 sacks during the 2022 season. That breaks the franchise record of 62 that the 1989 team held. Five more sacks could break the NFL record, one currently owned by the 1984 Chicago Bears.

Brandon Graham’s tenth sack of the season helped set another NFL record. Philly has four players with a double-digit sack total on the season. B.G. had a pair of sacks in the game and has 11 on the campaign with a week to play.

Josh Sweat’s scary injury early in this one was one of the few concerning moments for Philly’s front (other than what we saw on the first drive of course). Sweat is okay, and his friends looked good in his absence.

The D-line wreaked havoc on New Orleans following the first drive. With the seven sacks and an effort that kept Saints running back Alvin Kamara under 100 yards, the defense kept the Philadelphia Eagles in the game and gave the guys on the other side of the ball plenty of opportunities to stay in the game.

The Eagles’ offense was stagnant nearly all-day.

There is just too much blame to go around for the Philadelphia Eagles’ stagnant offense. Yes, starting quarterback Jalen Hurts was out for the second game in a row, but Gardner Minshew is a more than capable backup and should be good enough to win these types of games. He wasn’t.

Minshew finished the game with 18 completions on 32 pass attempts for 274 yards. He threw one touchdown, but he also threw a terrible pick-six that sealed the game with five minutes to go.

His final numbers don’t look bad, but he was horrible in the first half. Minshew and the offense had four-straight three-and-outs to open the game and didn’t record a first down until the final drive before halftime.

With a backup quarterback starting, the Eagles, for some reason, elected against running the ball. Miles Sanders had just two carries in the first half and 12 for the entire game. 61 yards rushing was the result.

Sanders averaged 5.1 yards per attempt. He should have been used more. Might there be some concern with his knee? He was wearing a brace all game. That’s still no excuse.

Boston Scott had just two carries. Kenneth Gainwell’s lone rush went for a touchdown, but it was called back because of a penalty. The Eagles obviously miss the dual-threat abilities of quarterback Jalen Hurts and their right tackle Lane Johnson, but their running backs have been great all year long. They should have been factored into the game plan more.

Final thoughts

The good news is that Jalen Hurts is expected to play next week. He is 13-1 as a starter this year and will embrace the pressure of needing to win in Week 18 to secure the division.

It is difficult to imagine that Philly’s losses versus the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints would have occurred had Hurts played. Let’s hope he is healthy and ready to play next week.

In conclusion, it was a forgettable afternoon for Philly fans and the players in Week 17, but all hope isn’t lost. The division title and the top seed are still on the table.

The Eagles need to find their winning formula again and earn a victory next week. Securing the division and top seed in the NFC would allow the Eagles to rest and hopefully get healthy during the bye week. This could be all the team needs to get back on a roll and make a playoff run in a wide-open conference.

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