By Bryan Stauffer
There was nothing Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles offense could do but watch.
They had done all that they could do.
After trailing 20-14 heading into the fourth quarter, Foles and company put up 10 crucial points in the fourth to jump out to a one-point lead with five minutes remaining.
A second round playoff appearance against the No. 2-seeded Carolina Panthers hinged on the upcoming defense and special teams series.
But as rapidly as the Eagles jumped out in front, they gave it all back even faster.
On the ensuing kickoff, New Orleans’ Darren Sproles drew defenders to one side and made a sudden cutback to bring the ball out to the Saints’ 37, which would have given the Saints fantastic field position.
However, Philadelphia’s Cary Williams, who arguably saved an even bigger return with only the kicker Alex Henry behind him, was penalized for a horse-collar tackle on Sproles, giving the Saints the ball on the Eagles 48.
The Saints are arguably the last team you would want to give a short field to, especially when they are in need of just three points. The Eagles’ special teams put the defense in a tough spot right off the bat.
And New Orleans took advantage. They picked up 34 yards over seven plays to move down to the Eagles’ 14 yard-line, and Shayne Graham nailed a 32-yard field goal to give the Saints the 26-24 victory as time expired.
Philadelphia’s downfall was anchored by a defensive front that was manhandled for 60 minutes. The Saints came in averaging 92 rushing yards per game and finished with 185.
Secondly, the Eagles were unable to match the rushing performance of their counterparts, which seems ironic considering Philadelphia has the leagues top rushing offense at 160.4 yards per game. They were held to just 80 yards on the ground.
Thirdly, the Eagles inability to cash in off two Drew Brees interceptions ultimately came back to hurt them. Eagles head coach Chip Kelly has preached the importance of winning the turnover battle and converting forced turnovers into points, and it came back to bite them.
It is a devastating defeat for the city of Philadelphia, but Chip Kelly’s transformation of a 4-12 team that finished last in the NFC East a year ago has the future looking bright in the city of brotherly love.
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