By Chris Murray
For the NFC'Easter
PHILADELPHIA—The one thing that Eagles fans learned Sunday in their 48-22 loss to the high-powered New Orleans Saints is that their team has a long way to go before it can really consider itself among the elite teams in the NFC.
“It wasn't right today in any phase of it,” said Eagles head coach Andy Reid. “It was an absolutely horrendous performance.”
Granted, the Birds were without injured starting quarterback Donovan McNabb, but even with his presence would not have been enough to stop a juggernaut of a Saints offense that simply had its way with the Eagles defense, who gave up the most points at home since 1962.
On a day where the Birds were starting second-string quarterback Kevin Kolb, the Birds needed to play well on all sides of the football. In the first half, the Eagles offense managed to keep up with Drew Brees and company and trailed by four points at the intermission.
The Birds sealed their own fate by turning the ball over the first two times they touched the ball in the second half. The first came on a fumbled kickoff by Ellis Hobbs and a Kolb interception that put the Saints in Eagles territory on both occasions.
The powerful Saints offense took advantage of the Birds miscues by scoring touchdowns and pretty much ended the competitive portion of the game. The Eagles got no closer than 14 points.
It might be easy for Eagles fans and observers to give the Birds defense a pass just because the Saints are just that good on offense. It's also easy to blame the poor play of the special teams,which committed a turnover and several penalties and put the defense in positions where they had to defend a short field.
But the bottomline is that the Saints simply had their way with a confused Eagles defense in both the rushing game and the passing game. They torched the Birds for 423 yards of total offense. Wide receiver Marques Colston torched the Eagles secondary for two touchdowns. He caught eight passes for 98 yards. Brees, though he was sacked twice, burned the Birds for 311 yards while completing 25-of-34 passes.
If the Eagles are the Super Bowl contenders that all the experts say they're going to be, they have to play much better on defense against some of the conferences best offenses. The effort they displayed today will not cut it against the New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys or even the San Diego Chargers.
Luckily for the Eagles, they won't be playing prolific offenses like the Saints for the next couple of weeks. Kansas City, whom the Birds play next week at Lincoln Financial Field. After that, they play Buccaneers, Raiders and Redskins. None of these teams scare me with their offensive prowess.
“We're the team that we had last week (against Carolina),” said Quintin Mikell. “We have to watch the film, learn from it and move on. We were on our heels and we weren't aggressive and you can't do that against good teams.”
And that's why the Eagles have time to right the ship on the defensive end in the next couple of weeks. The standard the Birds are looking to get back to is what they did to the Carolina Panthers in Week 1 when they forced turnovers and got after the quarterback. But they have to do that against the some of the better offenses in the league.
Maybe it's safe to conclude that the Eagles lackluster effort against New Orleans was just an aberration, but if they let a team Kansas City run through their defense with that kind of impunity the way the Saints did, then you may have a reason to panic if you're an Eagles fan.