DeSean Jackson fielded a punt at the 2 and ran it back 31 yards.
Good play? No way.
Punt returners are taught to let the ball bounce into the end zone for a touchback whenever they're standing inside the 5-yard line. Jackson's return was negated by two penalties and the ball was brought back to the 3.
The mental miscue was one of many blunders the Philadelphia Eagles committed in a 48-22 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. The Eagles were awful on special teams, the defense couldn't stop Drew Brees and the Saints' prolific passing attack, and quarterback Kevin Kolb threw three interceptions.
Even if Donovan McNabb wasn't sidelined with a broken rib, the Eagles (1-1) would've had a difficult time against the Saints with such a sloppy performance.
"I've gotta make sure I take care of the execution and the discipline it takes to win a game in the National Football League," coach Andy Reid said Monday. "It's tough to beat a good football team like the Saints with the field position that we put ourselves in, with the penalties and the turnovers. I will address this with the team. We will figure out the problems."
The Eagles and Saints were tied at 10 with under two minutes left in the first half when Jackson backed up to catch Thomas Morstead's punt. The speedy wide receiver had an 85-yard punt return for a score in last week's 38-10 win at Carolina. He's a legitimate threat to go all the way every time he touches the ball. But Jackson should've let the ball go to allow the Eagles to start at the 20 in this case.
After two penalties nullified the nifty run, Philadelphia went three-and-out and had to punt from its end zone. The Saints got the ball at their 46 with 1:20 left in the quarter and Brees needed just two plays to put them ahead 17-10.
Jackson defended his decision to make the return.
"I knew where I was," he said. "It was a great return. Unfortunately, a couple of guys on the team were called for a penalty."
Special teams coach Ted Daisher disagreed.
"He should have let that ball go," Daisher said. "It was then complicated with our decision to put our hands in the back. We have to get that cleaned up."
Daisher's unit had a lot of problems. The Eagles committed five penalties on special teams and had one costly turnover. Punter Sav Rocca also had a tough day, though his net average on five punts was 41.6 yards.
Jackson's gaffe set up New Orleans' go-ahead score. Kick returner Ellis Hobbs fumbled the second-half kickoff, leading to another Saints' touchdown.
"We have all the talent in the world, but you can kill yourself on the mental aspect, the penalties and mental errors," Hobbs said. "Even if they are not penalties, it's not blocking the right guy, getting to the right holes, whatever it is. You have to do anything to get there. This is a game of inches. What you see out there is a bunch of inches, just adding up."
The mistakes kept piling on after Hobbs got stripped. On Philadelphia's ensuing possession, Kolb made a poor decision to throw to a well-covered Jackson running on a simple sideline pattern. Scott Shanle made the easy pick and the Saints again got excellent field position at the Eagles 24. They scored a TD off that turnover and turned the game into a rout.
"We were fine in the locker room at halftime," Kolb said. "Everybody was positive and then we had the early score there and we need to come back and answer and I threw the ball right in coverage. I saw the guy and just made a bad throw, a bad decision and I've got to cut those turnovers out. I know better than that and I will do it."
A defense that dominated the Panthers and Jake Delhomme in the opener may have been the biggest culprit in the loss. They allowed the Saints to rack up 421 yards, only sacked Brees twice and gave him plenty of time to throw.
"We are the team that we had last week," safety Quintin Mikell said. "This week is a game where you've got to watch the film, learn from it and move on. That's just not what we do around here. We were playing on our heels and we weren't playing aggressive and we can't do that against a good team. They're a good team and they came out and made a lot of good plays but I feel like we're a good team and we just didn't play our best game."