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Struggling Eagles' D have tall task in Brees

reuben frank csnphilly

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Posted 03 November 2012 - 07:13 PM


Struggling Eagles' D have tall task in Brees

November 3, 2012, 11:17 am

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While the Eagles are salivating over facing the Saints’ 32nd-ranked defense, the Saints no doubt are salivating over the matchup between Drew Brees and a struggling Eagles pass defense.

The Saints are 2-5, they’re operating without suspended head coach Sean Payton, and Brees isn’t enjoying a vintage Drew Brees season, but it’s still a scary matchup for an Eagles defense that has struggled over the past five games.

“They’re an attack team,” said Eagles defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, whose unit allowed points on its first six drives in his debut against the Falcons last weekend. “They attack you with the running backs, the tight ends and the wide receivers.

“You’ve got to have a good overall game plan against them, and you have to hope that he is off a little bit. You have to hope they are a little bit worn down. He’s been tough for years now. It’s not just this game. He’s been tough against everybody. They are the No. 1 pass offense in the league for a reason.”

In what many perceive as an off year, Brees has thrown for 2,310 yards in seven games – an NFL-high 330 per game – with 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Some off year.

After a good start, the Eagles’ pass defense has been dismal. Over the past five weeks, they’ve allowed nine touchdown passes and intercepted just two passes. Since Week 3, only the Colts have fewer interceptions (one) than the Eagles.

The Eagles face Brees for the fifth time on Monday night in a national TV game at the Louisiana Superdome.

Brees is 3-2 all-time vs. the Eagles, with two wins in 2006 – one in the regular season, one in the playoffs by identical 27-24 scores – and a win in 2009. The Eagles beat Brees and the Saints in 2005 and 2007, two of their worst recent seasons.

In his career against the Eagles, Brees has completed 122 of 185 attempts (66 percent) for 1,412 yards with nine TDs and six interceptions for a 91.5 passer rating. That’s eighth-highest ever against the Eagles, behind Woodbury, NJ native Milt Plum (118.4), Tom Brady (107.4), Peyton Manning (104.5), Boomer Esiason (99.5), Don Meredith (97.0), Y.A. Tittle (92.0) and Jon Kitna (91.9).

Although the Saints have struggled and will be missing injured Pro Bowl two-way back Darren Sproles, they still have tremendous weapons in receivers Marques Colston (40-for-580, five TDs), Lance Moore (31-for-433) and Devery Henderson (17-for-272) and tight end Jimmy Graham (30-for-315, four TDs).

“Drew doesn't need to hold the ball long – he's got enough guys that go out on every play, and they throw just about every down, so it's definitely a challenge there,” Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said. “He gets the ball out quick."

Brees is the third Super Bowl-winning quarterback the Eagles will face in a five-game stretch. But his numbers are down. His 59 percent completion percentage is his lowest since he became a full-time starter in 2004 with the Chargers, and his 93.0 passer rating is below his career 98.1 mark with the Saints.

The Saints are coming off a 34-14 loss in Denver in which Brees completed only 52 percent of his passes and was outplayed by Manning.

“I don’t know how many yards I’ve passed for, I don’t know completion percentage,” Brees said. “I know touchdowns to interceptions, because interceptions bother me. But I’m not in the business of assessing my performance, other than was it good enough to help us win and I have high standards and expectations for myself.

“Certainly last Sunday was not up to par for me by any stretch. I just think about trying to get a little bit better every week and put my team in the best position to succeed.

“There’s times where stats don’t tell the story. I’ve walked out of a game with maybe no touchdowns or one touchdown and not a great completion percentage, but I made great decisions, threw the ball away when I was supposed to avoid negative plays and made one or two critical passes that helped us continue the drive that helped us win the game.

“To me, it’s about what can I do to make the plays to win the game, lead my guys, (and) instill confidence in them. That’s my job.”

The Eagles opened the season with wins over Brandon Weeden and the Browns and Joe Flacco and the Ravens, but since then, they’ve lost three of four to fall to 3-4.

“They’ve really played a lot of teams really, really tough and I know that they’ve been put in a lot of tough positions with some turnovers from the other side of the ball, so some of those statistics are even inflated against them, when maybe it’s not deservedly so,” Brees said.

“They have some very talented players, and I would say that certainly their expectation level just like ours is much higher than maybe our records show at this point. We know how talented they are. We know the type of effort we’re going to get out of that team.”

The Eagles have made things tough on themselves during this stretch with no sacks in four games from their defensive ends, which has put a tremendous amount of pressure on the secondary.

Against Brees, who delivers the ball so quickly and accurately – his 66 percent career completion percentage is third-highest in NFL history – it could again be very difficult to get pressure. Although he’s thrown 315 passes, he’s been sacked only 13 times.

The Eagles have just nine sacks in seven games after sharing the NFL lead with 50 last year.

“They present a lot of different formations,” Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. “They’re a quick-tempo offense, so you have to be set and ready because they’re a fast-paced team and they’ll give you a bunch of different looks.

“So we have to be on top of our game. Drew is a smart player, a very smart player. But what he does is he makes quick decisions. He’s not going to hold the ball too long. He finds a way to get the ball out fairly quickly.”

E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com