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Eagles observations: A pitiful loss for the Saints, a false hope in Minshew, and more

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What was that?

It was a disaster.

And now the Eagles have painted themselves into a corner where they missed two of their three chances to lock down the No. 1. 1 seed in the NFC playoff bracket, and if they blow the last.. .well, we won’t even go there.

Here are our 10 snapshot observations from the Eagles’ pitiful 20-10 loss to the Saints at Linc.

1. The most worrying thing for me was not so much the loss as the fact that from the start of the game, the Saints were the most prepared team, the most intense team, the most physical team. Not the best team, but that didn’t matter. They played as if they were chasing a no. 1 seed, and the Eagles played like a 6-9 team desperate to make the playoffs. This is a Saints team that was 2-5 on the road, and they were the aggressor on offense and defense. By the end of the second quarter, the Saints had edged the Eagles 252-21, they were leading 13-0, Andy Dalton still hadn’t thrown an incomplete pass and the Eagles had no first downs. What is that? You can’t talk like you’re a Super Bowl contender and then let a 6-9 team walk into your building and jump on you like that. Yes, injuries, I understand. But we’re talking effort here, and the Eagles didn’t have it in the first half, and that’s squarely on Nick Sirianni and his coaching staff. Unacceptable. Inexcusable. Of course, they got up in the second half and started making plays and staying close for a while. We do not care. It’s a 60 minute game and if you don’t bother bringing it for half of those 60 minutes you won’t win many games. This team is damn lucky to have one more chance to lock down the No. 1 seed, and obviously it’s a different team with Jalen Hurts behind center. But I don’t care who the quarterback is. If they go out and play like that again, they don’t beat anyone.

2. I said this week that I have great faith in Gardner Minshew and consider him one of the top two or three substitutes in the NFL. I was wrong. I was really wrong. He was awful. He didn’t handle the pressure well, he held the ball too long, he didn’t do control when they were there, he didn’t see wide open receivers and when he had the chance to succeed a spectacular trade, he couldn’t get a few inches on 4th-and-1, then he gave the Eagles every chance to come back and win with that ridiculous pick-6 he threw at Marshon Lattimore. He’s here for a reason. To win this game. To hold it down until Jalen Hurts is healthy. This? It was horrible. It was the Mike McMahon kind of stuff. I thought Minshew was decent. I was wrong.

3. By beating the Colts on Sunday at the Meadowlands, the Giants locked down the No. 6 seed, so next week’s game means nothing to them. Will be interesting to see what Brian Daboll does. I’m sure he’d like to rest his starters given the opportunity for an unexpected bye, but given the Eagles’ 48-22 win last month, would he want to prepare his team for the playoffs by trying to avenge this 26-point loss? Probably the old one. If you’re the Eagles, I guess you’d love the opportunity to lock in a No. 1 seed by beating a bunch of Giants backups. You couldn’t ask for an easier path to a first-round pass. Sounds a bit corny. But if you’re the Eagles, at this point you take it and run away.

4. Jalen Hurts should be ready to play next week – he better be – but it’s not an ideal situation. Because now it’s not just about giving him a streak or two so he doesn’t get rusty after a two-week layoff. Now you have to lean on this kid to win a game or the Eagles are going to blow up what not too long ago was a 98% chance of winning the No. 1 seed in the NFC . There’s no doubt in my mind that Hurts will rise to the occasion, but it’s also kind of scary because he’s a kid who just suffered a pretty serious injury and the last thing you want is to put him at undue risk. But I’ll tell you what. If you told me in August all the Eagles would have to do to lock down the No. 1 seed is beaten by a Giants team likely playing his backups, you would have signed up for it. That’s not much consolation right now.

5. That didn’t hold Landon Dickerson. This is called a pancake block. It is legal. That absurd call, which wiped out a 28-yard touchdown from Kenny Gainwell in the third quarter, was a disgrace. That would have reduced the Saints’ lead to 13-7. There was nothing in this block that even looked like an outfit. How do you make this call?

6. One thing you have to really appreciate about this team is the passing pressure they consistently generate. Dalton is rarely fired. He had been sacked 18 times in 12 games prior to this game, but the Eagles had him six times, and they added a seventh on Taysom Hill. Last week they sacked Dak Prescott six times after he was only sacked 12 times in nine games. That’s 68 sacks this year for the Eagles, the 4th most in NFL history and the most since the 1989 Vikings had 71. Five more break the NFL record of 72, set by the Bears of 1984. Whatever else happens with this team, this front generates fierce pressure that keeps them in games. The Eagles will obviously miss Josh Sweat while he’s gone, but they’re so deep, so versatile and so productive. They’ve been particularly efficient lately, with an absurd 32 sacks over the past five games. That’s three more than they had in 17 games last year. Last week, they became the first team in NFL history with six sacks in four straight games. That’s five in a row now. An incredible group.

7. It’s hard to believe that neither Darius Slay nor James Bradberry had an interception in the last eight games. The first eight, they each had three. Slay’s last INT was in Week 6 of Cooper Rush. Bradberry’s last INT came in Week 8 in Houston. After making 13 assists in their first nine games, the Eagles have four in the last seven – two from Josiah Scott and one from Reed Blankenship and Sweat each. With the pressure that this front generates, the opportunities are there, but lately, when they have had opportunities, they have not capitalized. Slay brawled. Bradberry gave up 58 yards on Sunday. With the injuries they have in the secondary, the Eagles need Slay and Bradberry to be both more consistent and more productive.

8. No one was in the mood to party, but it was nice to see Brandon Graham finally hit double figures in the sacks in his 13th season. He recorded two sacks on Sunday to give him 11 with one game remaining. That sack made the Eagles the first team since sacks became an official stat in 1982 with four players with double-digit sacks. With Josh Sweat’s status unknown after that frightening neck injury, the Eagles are going to need BG more than ever, and the way he plays, he’ll be up to it. Honestly, we all thought this would be a farewell season for Graham, but if Howie Roseman can make the numbers work, there’s no reason not to bring him back for a 14th season. The guy is having his best season at 34 after an Achilles blow. Unbelievable.

9. It might not be a big deal in the grand scheme, but on their first possession, the Saints had a 2nd-and-6 on the Eagles 13-yard line. Andy Dalton pitched incomplete and the Saints were called for an illegal man down. In this situation you would rather have a 3rd and 6 than a 2nd and 11 but Sirianni took the penalty the Saints converted and quickly took a 7-0 lead with what turned out to be their only offensive touchdown. .

ten. In the first half of the season, it was hard to imagine better cornerback play the Eagles were getting from Darius Slay and James Bradberry. Eight games later, they were the only corners in the league to hold opposing quarterbacks to a passer rating below 50 when targeting them – Slay was at 37.2 and Bradberry at 35.9. They each had three interceptions and a total of 18 knockdowns. The last eight games they have had no interceptions and 10 knockdowns. Slay hasn’t looked the same for a while. QBs have a 134.2 passer rating targeting him since Week 9 before Sunday, and Bradberry was down to 69.7 – still good but not where he was. And on Sunday, again, they just didn’t make an impact. Dalton succeeded – 18 for 22? Against the Eagles secondary, and Bradberry gives up 58 yards to Rashid Shaheed. The Eagles are going to face elite QBs in the playoffs, and Slay and Bradberry need to do better.

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