Same record, opposite directions: Saints more hopeful after knocking off reeling Eagles 28-13
NEW ORLEANS – Two teams with the same record. Two teams heading in strikingly different directions.
Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints appear to be on the rise again.
Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles are down, and nearly out.
Brees threw two touchdown passes, extending his NFL record streak to 51 games in a row, while Vick was sacked seven times and took an awful beating as the Saints romped to a 28-13 victory over the Eagles on Monday night.
Not that Philadelphia didn't have its chances. But four first-and-goals resulted in two measly field goals, a tipped pass led to Patrick Robinson's 99-yard interception return for a New Orleans touchdown, and the Eagles messed up a trick play when they had the home team totally fooled, costing them a score.
"As coaches and as players, we obviously have to do a better job," embattled coach Andy Reid said of the Eagles (3-5), who are mired in a four-game losing streak. "That starts with me."
The Saints (3-5) revolve around Brees, of course, and he played much better than he did the previous week in a 34-14 loss to Denver. But his performance was more efficient than spectacular, as New Orleans seemed intent on proving it's not just a one-man team.
The NFL's worst-ranked running game relied on a trio of backs — Chris Ivory, Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas — and finished with 140 yards, nearly double its season average. Ivory had a 22-yard touchdown run.
The defense came up with two huge turnovers near its own end zone. There was Robinson's interception and return, which matched Darren Sharper's franchise record. Then, with just over 3 minutes left and the Eagles down to their last gasp, Brent Celek caught a pass at the New Orleans 8 but fumbled it away.
The Saints recovered, and the Superdome celebration was on.
"There are defining moments throughout a season," Brees said. "Big plays, big wins, that kind of bring you together and let you see a vision of what you can be, what you can accomplish. Here we are the midway point. It's gone by fast.
"This," he added, "is the type of momentum we want going into the second half of the season."
Another dismal performance by the Eagles is sure to keep the heat on Vick and Reid.
Vick threw a 77-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson in the third quarter, but that was about the only highlight for the visiting team. The elusive quarterback matched his career high for sacks; he also went down seven times when playing for the Atlanta Falcons against the New York Giants on Oct. 15, 2006.
"It's very frustrating," Vick said. "These are games that we have the opportunity to win, or get back in the game. At this point, everything has to be dead on. You can't miss, and you almost have to be perfect on every drive."
Philadelphia was far from perfect, but sure had plenty of chances. The Eagles outgained New Orleans and finished with 447 yards — the eighth straight team to put up more than 400 on the Saints.
But the offensive line just couldn't keep Vick upright, a problem that got worse after right tackle Todd Herremans went down in the first half with a strained ankle tendon. He didn't return.
"These are correctable mistakes," Reid said, repeating a familiar theme. "With some of those sacks you can look at coverage, and with some of them you can look at play calling, but we have to do better. The bottom line is we have to block the guys and do a better job."
Rubbing salt in the wound, Philadelphia squandered a chance to get back in the game with a unique trick play on a kickoff return. Riley Cooper laid flat in the end zone, unseen by the Saints, then popped up to take a cross-field lateral from Brandon Boykin.
Cooper streaked down the sideline for an apparent touchdown. Only one problem — Boykin's lateral was actually an illegal forward pass by about a yard, and the officials caught it. Cooper stood with his hands on his hips, in disbelief, when he saw the yellow flag.
Brees kept his record touchdown streak going, hooking up with Marques Colston on a 1-yard scoring pass and Jimmy Graham from 6 yards out.
The Saints quarterback finished 21 of 27 for 239 yards, a big improvement on his 22-of-42 showing against the Broncos.
Meanwhile, a Saints defense that had endured much ridicule kept the heat on Vick, and the brutal pounding made it tough for No. 7 to establish any rhythm. He finished 22 of 41 for 272 yards and really couldn't be blamed for Robinson's interception, which went off the hands of Celek, the first major miscue on a tough night for the tight end.
Cameron Jordan had three sacks, matching his total for the season, while Will Smith took down Vick twice — also matching his sack total through the first seven games.
Reid moved quickly to snuff out any talk about replacing Vick, which has become a weekly ritual.
"Michael Vick will be the quarterback," the Eagles coach said.
The Saints raced to a 21-3 halftime lead, putting the Eagles in a big hole for the second straight game. Over the last two weeks, they have been outscored 45-10 in the first and second quarters.
New Orleans was on the verge of blowing it open when it took the second-half kickoff and drove deep into Philadelphia territory. But the Eagles defense came up with a big turnover, as Brandon Graham stripped the ball from Brees and fell on it at the Eagles 17. Two plays later, Vick found Jackson wide open down the right side on a deep throw, and he took it the rest of the way for a touchdown.
Rookie Travaris Cadet, filling in on returns for the injured Darren Sproles, fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Philadelphia recovered again. Vick broke off a 14-yard run to the 8, but yet another sack stifled the drive.
The Eagles settled for Alex Henery's second field goal from 37 yards.
It was that kind of night for the Eagles.
NOTES: Graham led the Saints with a season-high eight catches for 72 yards. ... Jackson finished with 100 yards receiving on just three catches. ... Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy had 19 carries for 119 yards, but only 18 yards came after halftime. ... New Orleans gave up a season low in points. The previous best was a 31-24 victory over San Diego. ... The Saints lost two players to injuries. OT Zach Strief (groin) went down in the third quarter, and DE Junior Galette (ankle) was hurt in the first. Neither returned.
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