NEW ORLEANS (CBS) — It’s okay to now officially declare the 2018 Eagles season as their “mulligan year.”
They won the first Super Bowl in franchise history last season, and what returned was a tired, content team with apparently a jolly, satisfied fanbase that somehow forgot the National Football League would continue — even after the Eagles won the Super Bowl.
The Eagles’ 41-point loss on Sunday made more history as the largest loss in NFL history by a defending Super Bowl champion.
The Eagles were already in tattered shape, missing major pieces by the time they had arrived at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday to face the hottest team in the NFL, the New Orleans Saints.
By halftime, you wondered if Doug Pederson was tempted to poke his head out into the parking lot and start scouring the area for more players after Jason Kelce, Avonte Maddox and Sidney Jones were lost to injuries — making an already impossible task that much more difficult.
After the Eagles’ 48-7 loss to the Saints — their fifth loss in their last seven games — they’re now a loss to the visiting New York Giants Sunday away from being tied for last in the NFC East.
Who thought that would happen a month ago?
On their 10 drives, the Eagles crossed midfield twice — the second time with the game well decided in the fourth quarter. They had two three-and-outs, two turnovers on downs, three Carson Wentz interceptions, two six-play drives that ended in punts and a six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter.
The Saints finished with 547 yards of offense to the Eagles’ scant total of 196, outgaining the Eagles by 350 yards, the largest yard differential in the NFL this season.
With Stefen Wisniewski spelling Kelce, it left a gaping void in the middle of the Eagles’ offensive line, making it open season on Wentz, who was pressured all afternoon and sacked three times for minus-18 yards.
Jones and Maddox were replaced by the trio of Cre’von LeBlanc, De’Vante Bausby and Chandon Sullivan. Two weeks ago, LeBlanc was on the street, claimed off waivers, and Bausby was elevated from the practice squad the day before the Saints game. Four weeks ago, Sullivan was on the practice squad.
But that didn’t matter, considering the way Corey Graham and Rasul Douglas were carved up by Drew Brees on a 23-yard TD pass to Michael Thomas with 11:26 left in the third quarter.
By then, it didn’t matter. The Eagles were trailing 31-7.
Saints’ rookie receiver Tre’Quan Smith had a career-high 10 receptions for 157 yards. He entered the game making 12 catches in his previous nine games.
On a larger scale, the Eagles find themselves 4-6 and a lot closer to the 3-7 Giants than they are to the Washington Redskins, who lost quarterback Alex Smith for the season with a broken leg on Sunday in Washington’s 23-21 loss to Houston, and what now appears to be the favorites to win the NFC East, the 5-5 Dallas Cowboys, who only two weeks ago appeared on life support.
After Mark Ingram scored his second TD of the game, with 5:39 left in the third quarter, the Saints went up 38-7 and it only verified what looked like a certainty after the first quarter: The Eagles’ season appears over.
What summed up the day — and the season — came when Malcolm Jenkins slammed his helmet about five feet off the Mercedes-Benz Superdome turf in the fourth quarter after Alvin Kamara’s 37-yard TD reception.
There was one consolation: If the Eagles need additional secondary help, they could look at punter Cameron Johnston, who looked better tackling than many of his teammates.
The one drawback: No mercy rule to end it earlier.
Running back Josh Adams scoring on a 28-yard touchdown run, pulling the Eagles to within 17-7 with 8:42 left in the half.
Guards Brandon Brooks and Isaac Seumalo doing a great job opening the gaping hole Adams ran through on the Eagles’ only score.
Running back Corey Clement’s 48-yard kickoff return after the Saints’ opening-drive field goal.
Safety Malcolm Jenkins seemed to be the only defender who was able to make a tackle in the first half. His tackle for no gain on the Saints’ 25 with 7:53 left in the half forced the Saints to punt for the first time. He made another play in the first quarter, taking down Dan Arnold for a 2-yard gain, which forced the Saints into a field goal. When his teammates seemed to quit, Jenkins kept playing — and demonstratively cared after giving up a fourth-quarter TD to Kamara.
Punter Johnston taking down Kamara on a punt return in the third quarter.
Wentz’s first-quarter interception to Marshon Lattimore, throwing into double coverage on a pass intended for Nelson Agholor. Compounding that was center Jason Kelce going down and lost for the game with an elbow injury.
Pederson’s decision to put Wentz back out there after being down 45-7.
Cornerback Jones had a pretty bad first quarter. He came down to stop Ingram and whiffed, resulting in Ingram going 38 yards. On the same drive, Jones got burned by Keith Kirkwood on a third-and-three at the Eagles’ 32 for a four-yard gain and a first down.
The Eagles’ first-quarter offense started with seven plays for 15 yards, with their only first down of the quarter coming on a defensive holding penalty.
Down 17-0, the Eagles had been outgained 232-15 and trailed miserably in time of possession, with the Saints holding the ball for 14: 38 to the Eagles’ 3:15.
Bausby’s holding penalty on a third-and-goal from the Eagles’ on an incomplete pass. The call gave the Saints a new set of downs and led to Mark Ingram’s second TD.