The drought continues. The Philadelphia Eagles haven't won a playoff game in half a decade, going 0-for-4 since the divisional playoffs in 2008. They came damn close to breaking out of that losing streak Saturday night at Lincoln Financial Field but fell short when Shayne Graham hit a 32-yard field goal with no time left on the clock to give the New Orleans Saints a two-point victory.
How did it come to that in a game in which the Eagles won the turnover battle 2-0? Let's dig into the coaches tape.
First big chance foiled...by Foles
The Eagles forced two punts and a turnover on New Orleans' first three drives and had a chance to take control of the game when their final drive of the first quarter reached the Saints' 15-yard line. But then everything went to hell.
It started when the Saints linebackers didn't bite on a screen to the weak side from Nick Foles to tight end Brent Celek. Foles probably should have seen that said pass wasn't going to end well and should have thrown it away, but he appeared to panic and released anyway.
They lost 19 yards on back-to-back plays and missed the field goal. How valuable were those three points? Well, the Eagles lost by two.
Foles' lack of an internal clock and poor decision-making skills cost Philly three points.
Riley's drop was a back-breaker
The Eagles went three-and-out to start the third quarter before letting the Saints drive down the field to take the lead. And then, when they had a chance to take the momentum back on third down, Riley Cooper dropped one of the most important passes of his life.
And the worst part is that Cooper was so steady during the regular season, dropping only four passes on 81 targets, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Why all the three-and-outs?
I mentioned that the Eagles went three-and-out on their first drive of the second half, and that Cooper drop was obviously also part of a three-and-out. But the Eagles actually went three-and-out four times, which absolutely kills your defense, especially when you move as quickly as this offense does.
The first three-and-out came on their second offensive series of the first quarter, and it had nothing to do with the play calls. They gave it to LeSean McCoy for three yards on first down, but the drive was blown up on 2nd-and-7 when they went back to their workhorse back.
In this case, the Saints left six in the box and were very well positioned to stuff McCoy.
The unblocked defender (circled but hidden by the SkyCam) forces McCoy to cut back...right into Cameron Jordan. Jordan didn't need to be blocked initially, because of the direction of the run, but once McCoy was forced to improvise, things got sticky.
On their second three-and-out, which took place in the second quarter, McCoy could manage only one yard on first down. In that case, the Eagles offensive line was just beaten up by the Saints defensive front. Look at the penetration Jordan manages to get against Celek and Lane Johnson on the sweep to the right:
No big holes for Shady
As we've illustrated, McCoy had nowhere to go for much of the night. His longest run was just 11 yards, but it's hard to pin that on him. Center Jason Kelce did not play a particularly good game, and the line was generally manhandled by the Saints' front seven.
Kelce has to hold his blocks longer than this:
And what's with all the short kicks?
Three Saints offensive drives that came off of kickoffs started at or beyond the 25-yard line because Alex Henery couldn't get it deep into the end zone.
The first two were inconvenient but not too costly.
Defensive front gets dominated
I don't know what happened to Bennie Logan, Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton, but that line was rocked consistently by the New Orleans offensive line. The Saints didn't have top back Pierre Thomas, but Mark Ingram found plenty of holes, and Drew Brees made 3rd-and-short plays look easy.
Here's Brees converting three separate first downs, including two back-breakers in the final minutes, just by crawling behind an offensive line that is plowing forward:
"That's on me," defensive coordinator Bill Davis said after the game, according to the Philadelphia Daily News. "I made the calls for the passing game, to make sure we keep the big plays off of us. I could've called more of a run-heavy defensive game."
So what went wrong? They were outcoached, outmuscled and outsmarted. To everyone's surprise, this game was won in the trenches. The Eagles had a chance to overcome those lapses along the offensive and defensive line, especially with New Orleans turning it over twice, but sloppy mistakes on offense and special teams also cost them.
They looked like they lacked experience in big games. They didn't grind, and they didn't rise up when the moment demanded it. They deserved to lose this game. But as a result, they might be more prepared next time around.