NEW ORLEANS — You want to blame this one on Jim Schwartz? On the Eagles' defense?
OK, blame him for holding one of the highest-scoring offenses in NFL history to 20 points.
Blame him for limiting the Saints to 14 fewer points than their average at the Superdome.
Blame him for figuring out a way to hold down the Saints despite being down to his 10th cornerback of the season, a recently promoted practice squadder named Josh Hawkins.
Blame him for keeping the Eagles in a game that they really had no business being in after the offense sputtered to a halt after a hot first quarter.
The Eagles’ defense finished the season very strong, and on Sunday it held a Saints offense averaging 35 points per game at home — 35 points per game — to just 20 in the 20-14 playoff loss at the Superdome.
This is one of the highest-scoring offenses ever.
It managed 20 in its own building coming off a bye against a team ravaged by injuries playing on the road for the fifth time in six weeks.
Ask 1,000 Eagles fans if they would have signed up for 20 points before kickoff and 1,000 fans would have said, “Hell yeah.”
Hold the Saints to 20 and you should win.
Was it perfect? No. Did the defense give up some long third downs? Yeah.
But forced to play stretches without Fletcher Cox and Rasul Douglas, and forced to play 38 minutes because of the offense’s inconsistency, the defense kept the Eagles in a game that rationally they shouldn’t have been in and held Drew Brees to his lowest point total ever in a playoff game at the Superdome.
The Saints are 13-45 under Brees when they score 20 or fewer points.
Putting this on the defense is preposterous.
All we do is focus on the process,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “We lean heavily on the guys we have in the locker room that have been through adversity and we just continue to fight and continue to trust in each other. This is no different, we just didn't get the result we wanted to. We put up a fight against a really good team on the road and gave ourselves a chance. That is all we ask for.
When you take a step back and look at what the Eagles accomplished despite being forced to use 10 different cornerbacks — going from 4-6 to within a snap or two of the NFC Championship Game — it really is remarkable.
The defense just kept getting better and better. During the last three games — which were all must-wins — the Eagles allowed three touchdowns and 35 total points.
Along the way, they found that some youngsters like Douglas, Cre’Von LeBlanc and Avonte Maddox can really play.
They didn’t win Sunday but Brandon Graham and others sure proved this isn’t the same unit that came to New Orleans two months ago and gave up 48 points.
We’re fighters. We fought hard. Despite what everybody thought. Everybody thought we were about to come in here and get whooped on. But we came out and showed we deserved to be here. That’s what I’m going to take away from it. How we dealt with all the adversity. I want to carry that on in life.
It looked like the Saints were on the brink of putting the game away after their monster 18-play, 92-yard TD drive.
But the Eagles held them to three points on their last three drives, giving the offense that final chance that fell just 27 yards short.
“I’m so proud of this locker room,” Cox said. “I’m so proud of the guys who fought and fought. We proved the world wrong. We just came up on the wrong end of the stick today.”
Look at the stretch run against elite offenses:
• The Rams average 33. The Eagles held them to 23.
• The Bears average 27. The Eagles held them to 15.
• The Saints average 32. The Eagles held them to 20.
And you're going to blame this on the defense? Really?
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