By Kevin McGuire
The Philadelphia Eagles drove 92 yards to take a 24-23 lead with just under five minutes to play, but the special teams gave New Orleans a chance and the defense failed to get off the field. A last-second field goal by Shayne Graham brought an end to the first season of the Chip Kelly era as the Saints left Philadelphia with a 26-24 victory in the NFC Wild Card playoff.
The time for season-long evaluations will come over the coming week, but for now let’s take a quick look at how the Eagles performed in this game.
Nick Foles led his team to a late fourth quarter lead with a touchdown drive capped with a short pass to tight end Zach Ertz. Unfortunately for the Eagles, Foles never returned to the field. It took a while to really get going. The New Orleans defense did a solid job in shutting down his options in the first half. Foles completed two touchdown passes and did not throw an interception, but there were times he held on to the football too long. Grade: B-
The Eagles struggled to get the running game going, which was supposed to be one of their potential advantages against the New Orleans defense up the middle. LeSean McCoy was held to just 77 rushing yards and DeSean Jackson caught three of the six passes in his direction for 53 yards, but that number was inflated with a 40-yard catch in the third quarter to spark a drive. Riley Cooper led the team in receiving but dropped an easy wide-open pass that would have resulted in a big gain. The Eagles were held to just 256 yards of offense and were 3-for-12 on third down. Grade: D+
The Eagles defense came up with two interceptions off of Saints quarterback Drew Brees but as expected the defense gave up a good number of plays in the middle of the field on short to medium range plays. Although poor special teams aided the game-winning field goal, the defense could not prevent the Saints from working the clock in their favor for a game winning field goal attempt. The Saints were 7-for-13 on third downs and the Eagles gave up 434 yards. They came up with some stops to hold New Orleans to three field goals, but they could only bend so far before letting one slip away. Grade: D
The special teams had generally been solid and dependable this season, but in the wild card match-up the special teams may have cost the Eagles a win. Alex Henery missed one of his two field goal attempts, and his last kick off of the game failed to reach the end zone, which allowed for a solid return and a costly penalty tacked on 15 extra yards to set New Orleans up at midfield. Punter Donnie Jones was once again solid, but the coverage team knocked a football in to the end zone when it would have been downed inside the one-yard line. Grade: D
The season ends on a sour note after not being able to get the same kind of offensive production that had been the norm for the Eagles in the second half of the season. Lessons will be learned from this first playoff experience under Chip Kelly, but for now it is important to evaluate everything that went down. The offense was slow to get started. The defense was vulnerable to give up a big play in the secondary at any time. Special teams blew coverage and committed a costly penalty with the game on the line. There are plenty of negative to review, but there were also some positives to build off of as well moving forward. Grade: C-
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Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.