Balanced offense and stout red zone defense lead Saints to 28-13 win over the Eagles

Brian McIntyre
Shutdown Corner

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees passed for 239 yards and two touchdowns and defensive end Cameron Jordan notched three sacks of Michael Vick as the Saints cruised to a 28-13 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night.

The Saints defense entered Monday night's game ranked dead last in the NFL, allowing an average of 474.7 yards of total offense, including a league-worst 170.1 rushing yards and a 304.6 passing yards allowed per game average that ranked 31st. The Eagles would rack up 447 yards of offense, including 272 yards passing by Vick and 221 rushing yards, including a game-high 119 from LeSean McCoy, but New Orleans' defense got tough inside their red zone and took advantage of an injury-depleted Eagles offensive line to get after Vick throughout the night.

Philadelphia had five trips inside the red zone and came away with just six points, including a woeful 0-for-4 showing in goal-to-go situations. The Eagles' struggles inside the red zone began late in the first quarter when a Vick pass intended for tight end Brent Celek was intercepted by cornerback Patrick Robinson, who returned the pick 99 yards for a touchdown to give the Saints a 7-0 lead. The Eagles would respond with a 22-yard field goal by Alex Henery on their following possession, only after failing to punch the ball into the end zone when they had a first-and-goal from the 4-yard line.

Though the two teams would nearly split the time of possession in the second quarter, it was the Saints that would put points, more importantly touchdowns, on the scoreboard. Following Henery's field goal, the Saints drove 76 yards in seven plays in just three minutes and 30 seconds, with running backs Chris Ivory and Mark Ingram combining for four rushes for 59 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown by Ivory.

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Ivory and Ingram were thrust into larger roles on the offense due to the absence of Darren Sproles, who underwent hand surgery last week and was inactive on Monday night. Ivory led the Saints with 10 carries for 48 yards, while Ingram finished the night with seven carries for 44 yards. With starter Pierre Thomas adding 44 yards of his own on six carries, the Saints' ground game produced 140 yards on the night after gaining just 132 yards in the previous two games combined.

Brees had a relatively quiet night, completing 21 of 27 attempts for 239 yards and the two touchdowns, extending his own NFL record with his 51st straight game with a touchdown pass.

Following Ivory's touchdown, the Eagles drove to midfield before a questionable illegal blindside block on wide receiver Riley Cooper pushed the offense back 15 yards to their own 35-yard line. The Eagles' drive would stall and a punt gave the Saints the ball back at their own 26-yard line. Strong runs by Ingram, Ivory and Thomas were combined with two connections between Brees and tight end Jimmy Graham for 30 yards to put the Saints at the Eagles' 10-yard line at the two-minute warning. Thomas nearly found the end zone on first down, which led to Brees finding a wide open Marques Colston in the back of the end zone to give the Saints a 21-3 lead at the half.

For Colston, it was the 54th touchdown of his career, giving him sole possession of second place in Saints' history. Colston is one touchdown behind Deuce McAllister in the team's record books.

New Orleans had an opportunity to salt the game away on the opening possession of the third quarter, driving all the way down to the Eagles' 9-yard line. Eagles defensive Brandon Graham would strip the ball out of Brees' hands and recover the fumble, keeping Philadelphia's chances alive. Two plays later, Vick found a wide open DeSean Jackson for a 77-yard touchdown to trim the deficit to 11 points. On the ensuing kick, Eagles rookie running back Chris Polk stripped the ball out of Saints rookie running back Travaris Cadet's hands with reserve cornerback Brandon Hughes recovering the fumble for the Eagles at the Saints' 22-yard line.

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The Eagles would squander another red zone opportunity however, as a 14-yard scramble by Vick to create a first-and-goal situation was followed by an 11-yard loss on a sack that was sandwiched by a pair of incomplete pass attempts. Henery was called upon for a 37-yard field goal to cut the Saints' lead to eight points.

The game would not remain that close for long. Brees completed five of six attempts, including a 23-yard strike to Lance Moore on a key third-and-7 play that helped set up a 6-yard touchdown pass to Graham to extend the lead to 15 points and close the scoring at 28-13.

Philadelphia had chances to make things interesting, but would continue to shoot themselves in the foot. Vick was sacked twice on their possession following the Graham touchdown and the Eagles were forced to punt. After the defense got the offense the ball back with 8:45 to play, the Eagles took four minutes and 43 seconds to drive down to the Saints' 5-yard line. Two penalties on right tackle Demetress Bell, who was playing in place of an injured Todd Herremans (ankle), pushed the Eagles back to a second-and-goal from the 15-yard line. Vick would be sacked for a 7-yard loss by Jordan and, on third down, a 14-yard catch-and-run by Celek would end with Curtis Lofton dislodging the ball from Celek's grasp, with Isa Abdul-Quddus recovering at the Saints' 7-yard line, essentially sealing the game.

Pressure on Vick was a key storyline of the night, as the New Orleans' pass rush, which had produced just 13 sacks on the season, had seven sacks on the night and hit Vick a total of 12 times. Jordan led the charge with three sacks and five hits on Vick, giving the No. 24 overall pick of the 2011 NFL draft six sacks on the season after he posted just one sack as a 15-game starter in 2011. Smith added a pair of sacks and three hits, while Brodrick Bunkley and Martez Wilson each had sacks, though Wilson was flagged for unnecessary roughness when Vick ducked his head into the hit.

The Saints host the undefeated Atlanta Falcons at 1 p.m. ET next Sunday, while the Eagles host the equally 3-5 Dallas Cowboys in a 4:25 p.m. ET game at Lincoln Financial Field.

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