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Eagles-Saints: What you need to know

mike wisniewski csnphilly

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 12:30 PM

Wlisniewski

Eagles-Saints: What you need to know

November 5, 2012, 10:00 am

MIKE WISNIEWSKI
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Eagles (3-4) at New Orleans Saints (2-5)
8:30 p.m. on ESPN

The Eagles enter their first of two Monday night games this season coming off a 30-17 loss to the Falcons — their third loss in a row and first ever loss following a bye under Andy Reid.

After not winning a single game in October, the turn of the calendar could be good for the Eagles, who are 33-21-1 under Reid in November.

Monday night’s game will mark New Orleans’ first at the Superdome since Oct. 7. Last week, the Saints were trounced by Peyton Manning and the Broncos, 34-14, on Sunday night. Their league-worst defense yielded Denver 530 total yards.

Injuries

Eagles
Out: WR Mardy Gilyard (hamstring), G Danny Watkins (ankle)
Questionable: DT Cullen Jenkins (knee), S Nate Allen (hamstring)
Probable: T King Dunlap (hamstring), CB Brandon Boykin (toe), DE Phillip Hunt (calf)

Saints
Out: RB Darren Sproles (hand), WR Courtney Roby (shoulder)

Offense

Eagles
Total: 363 yards per game (14th, NFL)
Passing: 246 ypg (15th)
Rushing: 118 ypg (10th)

Last Sunday marked the third time in the Birds’ last four games that they failed to reach the 20-point threshold. Their offense, averaging 17.1 points per game, is tied for 28th in the league in scoring.

Although the Eagles didn’t turn the ball over last week, their 17 giveaways are still tied for third-most in the NFL, and the team’s inability to consistently move the football has led to questions about the immediate future of quarterback Michael Vick. Since throwing six picks over the first two games, Vick has been more accurate and diligent with the ball; he's thrown just two interceptions (both in Week 6 against Detroit) in his last five contests. He’s completed 59 percent of his passes over that span as well.

LeSean McCoy hasn’t had much success on the ground as of late, averaging just 40 yards per game in the last three outings. Yet, he’s still been able to find the end zone and has three straight games with a touchdown reception.

It’s getting off to a good start that has been a major problem for the Eagles, who have often put themselves in early holes. They’ve yet to score on their first drive of a game — their seven opening possessions thus far have ended with five punts (four on three-and-outs), a fumble and an interception. In total, they’ve scored only seven points in the first quarter.

Saints
Total: 389 ypg (5th)
Passing: 316 ypg (1st)
Rushing: 73 ypg (32nd)

Drew Brees leads the NFL’s most deadly passing attack and sits atop the league in passing yards per game, with 330. His 20 touchdown passes trail only Aaron Rodgers (21), who has had the advantage of playing one extra game thus far. In Week 5, Brees broke Johnny Unitas’ record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass when he threw for a score for the 48th straight game. The streak currently stands at 50 games.

The six-time Pro Bowler spreads the ball around well, but his favorite receiver is Marques Colston, who has hauled in 40 catches for 580 yards and five touchdowns. Lance Moore, Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles each have at least 30 receptions and 315 yards as well, but Sproles will be sidelined Monday with a hand injury.

And while the Saints boast the best passing offense in the league, their rushing attack ranks dead last. Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram have split the majority of the carries. Thomas has had more success, racking up 257 yards on 4.4 per carry, while Ingram has just 134 yards for a 2.9 average. Overall, the Saints have had just three touchdowns via the ground game this year.

Defense

Eagles
Total: 340 ypg (12th)
Passing: 229 ypg (14th)
Rushing: 110 ypg (17th)

If there was one positive that came out of Todd Bowles’ first game as defensive coordinator, it was that the Eagles ended their three-game sackless streak. Other than that, there wasn’t much. The defense has been falling in the rankings each week and has been especially porous as of late, yielding 841 yards in the last two games. Their 30 points allowed against Atlanta marked a season high.

The defensive unit has forced just eight turnovers — only Pittsburgh (7), Kansas City (7) and Indianapolis (3) have fewer takeaways. Two sacks a week ago brought the season total to nine, second-to-last in the league ahead of Jacksonville (7).

But the defense has still done a fair job limiting the third-down success of its opponents, who have converted just 33 percent of their attempts. The Saints, however, are dangerous when it comes to extending drives with a 43-percent third-down success rate.

Saints
Total: 475 ypg (32nd)
Passing: 305 ypg (30th)
Rushing: 170 ypg (31st)

The Saints have the NFL’s worst defense and rank in the bottom three of almost every defensive statistical category. They’ve allowed a third-worst average of 30.9 points per game and have given up at least 24 points in every contest. The Eagles have reached the 24-point mark just once this year — in Week 2 against Baltimore.

Though the Eagles’ running game has slowed recently, it could see a revival against New Orleans. The Saints’ second-worst rushing defense has given up 170 yards per game on the ground. In Week 3, Jamaal Charles had the biggest game for any running back this season against the Saints, when he ran for 233 yards in a Chiefs victory.

But even this struggling unit has produced more takeaways (9) and sacks (13) than the Eagles.

Series History

Overall meeting: 28th (Eagles lead series, 16-11)

Last meeting: Saints 48, Eagles 22 — Sept. 20, 2009 at Lincoln Financial Field

Kevin Kolb made his first career start in place of an injured Donovan McNabb, but his 391 yards and two touchdowns weren’t enough to top Drew Brees and the Saints, who cruised to a 48-22 victory, handing the Eagles their first loss of the season.

The Birds went into halftime down 17-13, but the Saints pulled away early in the third quarter, scoring two touchdowns in the opening four minutes off two costly Eagles’ turnovers. After a Saints field goal, the Birds cut the deficit to 34-20 when Kolb hooked up with Jason Avant for a three-yard score late in the third. But two possessions later, Reggie Bush found paydirt on a 19-yard TD run and put the game out of reach.

Kolb finished the afternoon 31-for-51 passing with three interceptions, though two of them came in garbage time. Brian Westbrook carried 13 times for 52 yards, and Brent Celek led all receivers with eight catches and 104 yards. DeSean Jackson also eclipsed the century mark at 101 yards, 71 of which came on a first-quarter touchdown catch. Drew Brees threw for 311 yards and three scores to follow up his six-touchdown the week prior.

Connections
Saints head coach Sean Payton, currently under suspension for the entire 2012 season, began his NFL coaching career as the Eagles quarterbacks coach from 1997-98. His interim replacement, Joe Vitt, also served on the Eagles’ coaching staff, from 1995-98 as the linebackers coach. Both left the organization prior to Andy Reid’s first season in 1999.

Saints defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo spent eight years as an assistant for the Eagles under Jim Johnson, serving as defensive assistant (1999-00), defensive backs coach (2001-03) and linebackers coach (2004-06) before being hired as the Giants’ defensive coordinator in 2007.

Former Eagles first-round pick Brodrick Bunkley has played in six games with the Saints this season, picking up 11 tackles and half a sack.

Saints offensive guard Jahri Evans, who has started in every game for New Orleans since 2006, played his college ball at Bloomsburg University and attended Frankford High School in Northeast Philadelphia.

Special teams coordinator Bobby April coached New Orleans’ special teams unit from 1996-99.

Recommended Reading
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