It’s not difficult to understand why this one got away from the Saints.
While the defense held strong during the first half, it wore out in the second half as the Eagles ran 79 offensive plays. Mistakes started to be made, communication fell apart, and New Orleans ended up on the wrong side of a 39-17 result after allowing 519 yards.
There were strong individual performances in this game. Safety Kenny Vaccaro played one of his better games since his rookie season, cornerback Delvin Breaux continues to stand out, and wide receivers Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead put up big numbers. But the Saints can’t win like this.
The defense can’t be expected to save the day when the offense turns the ball over four times, including three times in the second half, and leaves the defense on the field for about 30 more snaps than what is typical. It’s an impossible task.
And the defense simply needs to be better. The secondary looked good Sunday. Unfortunately, the linebackers blew too many coverages and there wasn’t enough pass rush to make things uncomfortable for Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford.
This was a bad loss — perhaps the worst one of the season — and now New Orleans is set to play the Falcons on Thursday night. If that game is anything like this game, it’s going to be a rough go.
The Saints need to learn from this one and turn things around quickly.
QUARTERBACK: 1.5 out of 4
This wasn’t a good game relative to the standard Drew Brees has set for himself over the years. Some of the struggles were not his fault. He was under pressure too often and had to hurry some throws. His passing line (26-of-43, 335 yards, two touchdowns and an interception) was inflated by a late, worthless drive that tacked on an extra touchdown. The offense manufactured only three points on 11 drives between touchdowns.
RECEIVERS: 2.5 out of 4
Watching Willie Snead run routes is impressive. He isn’t the quickest guy on the field, or the fastest, but he approaches every situation with a plan and figures out a way to win. This was evident on a catch in the third quarter when he set up his man by first cutting inside and then to the sideline on a screen pass. The move gave him enough room to get open and pick up a 7-yard gain that put the Saints at the 3-yard line. It’s clear Snead is developing solid chemistry with Brees. He also made a back-shoulder catch for a 21-yard gain, which has been a rarity in this offense this season, and shook loose for a 59-yard gain down the left sideline. Snead is quickly becoming one of the better options within the offense. The only thing he needs to do is improve his consistency. It seems like he drops a pass every game.
OFFENSIVE LINE: 2 out of 4
It was an odd performance by the offensive line. Brees faced pressure on some plays, but also had plenty of time to throw on others. Some of the pressures he faced were the result of holding onto the ball, either by choice or design. Overall, the line allowed 10 pressures, three hits, and three sacks, one each of which fall on Andrus Peat, Zach Strief and Senio Kelemete. Another sack could be placed on Peat depending on who is grading the play. The rookie Peat did not perform badly in his first start. He was strong on a handful of plays, but also had some down moments. Along with the sack, he allowed two hits and allowed a run to be stuffed.
DEFENSIVE LINE: 2 out of 4
The Saints need to figure out a way to generate more pressure, and quickly, if they hope to turn this season around. Up against a quarterback who had completed around 40 percent of his passes when facing pressure this season, New Orleans impacted Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford on only eight snaps. Cam Jordan generated three pressures, Kevin Williams had two and a quarterback hit, Hau’oli Kikaha had one pressure, and Dannell Ellerbe had a hit. New Orleans sent seven pass rushers on one play late in the second quarter, and Bradford was still able to complete a pass to Jordan Matthews 2.5 seconds after it was snapped.
LINEBACKERS: 1.5 out of 4
After piecing together his best performance of the season last week against the Dallas Cowboys, Kikaha fell back to earth a little bit against the Eagles. He put his hand in the dirt this week and had some trouble making things happen against Philadelphia offensive tackle Jason Peters. Granted, Peters is a tough counterpart and many players struggle up against him, but it was a reminder that this is still a rookie figuring things out. Kikaha was also appeared responsible for a 16-yard run by Ryan Mathews. He bit wrong on a fake up the middle, which left the edge open for the running back to get a big gain.
SECONDARY: 3 out of 4
The secondary actually played well in this game. It wasn’t perfect, but they were solid, and Kenny Vaccaro lifted the overall grade here with a solid, high-energy performance. Vaccaro had several stuffs and standout moments throughout the game. His open-field tackle on Murray in the second quarter saved a big gain, and later he had an impressive pass breakup on a ball to Darren Sproles when he came across the formation and stretched out to knock it away. One of his finer moments that flew under the radar is when he jammed Matthews out of a play and then shot over toward the sideline to tackle Nelson Agholor. It was the continuation of a really strong start from Vaccaro, who has benefitted from being freed up from a strictly defined role. In simple terms, he’s now often just being asked to make plays. He’s succeeding on a weekly basis. The rest of the secondary was mostly solid.