Eagles well aware what Saints can do
NEW ORLEANS — Sean Payton dismisses the premise that the Eagles could derive extra motivation from the widespread perception that the Saints ran up the score on them when they met in November.
“My question would be: We're all playing hard in these divisional playoff games, right?” the Saints coach began, referring to today's rematch in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs.
“Are you going to play harder” because of a perceived slight?
Still, Payton expects a more competitive affair than the Saints' 48-7 blowout Nov. 18, which gave the Eagles the dubious distinction of becoming the first reigning Super Bowl champion to lose by that wide a margin in the following regular season.
The Eagles (10-7) appeared to be sinking fast when their loss in New Orleans dropped them to 4-6.
But they've rallied to win six of seven since, including a road victory against the Rams that helped the Saints (13-3) capture the conference's top seed.
“They've kind of been in a playoff role really going back to those games, needing to win to get in,” Payton noted.
“So it's impressive.”
Now the Eagles, who opened as 10-point underdogs this week, can ruin the Saints' Super Bowl dreams with a second straight road upset.
“We're looking forward to it,” Eagles tight end Zach Ertz said.
“We're a completely different team than we were seven weeks ago.
“I don't think the team that showed up on that Sunday is even remotely close to the team that we are right now.”
Such a lopsided loss in New Orleans could have resulted in finger-pointing and a fractured locker room, Ertz suggested.
Instead, Ertz said, “It was rallying point for our season.”
The Eagles survived last week's wild-card round with a 16-15 victory in which quarterback Nick Foles — who's won four straight starts since taking over for injured starter Carson Wentz — engineered a late scoring drive capped by a fourth-down touchdown pass.
And that only stood up after Bears kicker Cody Parkey's “double-doink” miss on a fieldgoal attempt that hit both the upright and crossbar in the final seconds.
The Eagles likely will need more offense in the Superdome, where the Saints averaged 37 points in Drew Brees' seven home starts before the recordsetting QB got a rest day during the club's anti-climactic regularseason finale.
“I assume they'll come in as motivated as ever. Just like we're going to come in as motivated as ever,” Brees said.
“Just two really good teams about to play in a playoff game.”
Fortunately for the Eagles, they appear to be healthier than the last time they played in New Orleans.
Malcolm Jenkins doesn't even remember all the names of the guys he was with, and the whole thing feels like a blur.
All he really recalls was “kind of hectic.”
But the Eagles safety's fogginess did not stem from any hurricanes on Bourbon Street; it came from playing the Week 11 loss during the Saints' highpowered offense scored on each of its first three possessions and scored 17 points in the game's first 18 minutes.
Like a game-show contestant, Jenkins was asked to try to is that a it SAM FARMER’S NFC PICK Eagles at Saints The Eagles have defied logic before, so an upset is possible. But the Saints are trending up defensively, they should be able to run the ball, and the Superdome is a really tough place to play.
Saints 30, Eagles 24.
recount to reporters all of the trouble that befell the Eagles' secondary in that game.
He got most of the answers right.
Cre'Von LeBlanc, claimed off waivers from the Lions just two weeks earlier, was playing for them, he said.
Defensive backs Sidney Jones, Avonte Maddox and Rasul Douglas were injured in the game.
De'Vante Bausby, who had been on the practice squad, was promoted for the game and saw significant playing time.
Said Jenkins, “I can't even remember who the other was.”
It was Chandon Sullivan, who like Bausby did not finish the season on the active roster.
Both were waived. Sullivan remains on the Eagles' practice squad.
He's played every snap of every game this season and has been the one source of stability in a secondary that has been ravaged throughout the year.
“That's the general of our room,” Douglas said.
“That's our leader. The guy who we look to when things are going wrong in the game.
“He's been invaluable to all of us. He knows the game so well because of the years he's been in the league. Him and Corey Graham know so much about the game. They've seen a lot and they help us.”
The defense has settled down of late, but the Saints still represent a daunting challenge.
The lesson from November is to not let the game get out of hand early.
That's especially important given how sluggish the Eagles have been all year on offense.
They scored only 41 firstquarter points in 2018, the fewest in the NFL.
In their last five games, including last week's 16-15 wildcard win, the defense gave up only 16 points on their opponents' first three possessions.
“Our defense has been playing lights-out,” center Jason Kelce said.
“They've corrected whatever needed correcting in the back end and it seems to have run its way throughout the whole defense.
“They're right now.”
The scars from the last game remain, though.
How could they not?
But they also represent lessons that the Eagles hope they can use to alter the outcome this time around.
“That was just one of those games where you just try to continue to fight,” Jenkins said.
“Now guys are healthier. They've got a lot more experience.
“We've done a better job, I think, of preparing them and creating a plan for them, and putting them in position to succeed.
I think we learned a lot from all of the injuries that we've had. Guys have gotten great experience and we've learned how to play better as a team, as a defense.
“And we're better for it.” of course, playing was really out well Saints
Saints running back Alvin Kamara, who had 81 catches this season, pulls in a pass against the Eagles in their regular-season meeting.