Saints-Eagles: Three Things New Orleans Must Do to Beat Philadelphia

Paul Augustin, Jr.Senior Analyst ISeptember 19, 2009

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 13:  Reggie Bush #25  of the New Orleans Saints runs with the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles during the NFC divisional playoff game at the Superdome on January 13, 2007 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Both the New Orleans Saints and the Philadelphia Eagles came into the season surrounded by playoff expectations.

They did nothing in week one to dispel those feelings as they defeated their opponents by a combined 46 points and forced 10 total turnovers.

The two teams should provide each other with much better competition in week two.

A win in Philadelphia would be huge for the Saints. If the Saints want to establish themselves as an elite team in the NFC, they need to win on the road against the league's best.

Sunday's victor will have a leg up on the other as they battle throughout the season for a playoff spot and a possible first-round bye.

The Saints' 2006 regular season victory over the Eagles proved to be pivotal in race for a playoff bye.

Both teams finished the regular season with 10-6 records, but the Saints' victory allowed them to have a first-round bye. New Orleans then defeated Philadelphia at home to advance to the NFC championship.

The Saints can beat the Eagles whether Donovan McNabb plays or not. In order to win, though, they must play better than they did against the Detroit Lions.

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Three things the Saints must do to beat the Eagles.

1) Cut down on the turnovers.

The Saints were able to defeat the Lions easily despite three turnovers because Detroit lacked production from the their running game and their defense. It also didn't help the Lions that they were starting a rookie quarterback.

New Orleans will not beat Philadelphia if they commit multiple turnovers, because the Eagles' defense won't allow the Saints to score 45 points.

2) Improve drastically on special teams.

The Saints special teams play was unacceptable last week against the Lions. Among the miscues were two fumbles (one lost), a blocked field goal, and allowing two returns that gave the Lions field position inside the Saints' 15-yard line.

These mistakes took three points from the Saints and gave the Lions another 10. If you gift wrap 13 points for a good team like the Eagles, you will get crushed.

Wide receiver DeSean Jackson had an 85-yard touchdown return for the Eagles against the Panthers. The Saints must neutralize him in order to win the field position battle.

The lone bright spot for the Saints on special teams was kickoff specialist/punter Thomas Morstead. He booted several kicks for touchbacks and his two punts averaged 48 yards.

3) Run the ball effectively between the tackles.

One of the pleasant surprises we saw from the Saints last week was their ability to run the ball up the middle consistently. Not only did Mike Bell run with authority, but the offensive line opened huge running lanes.

The Saints most effective play is the play-action pass. In order for it to be effective, though, there has to be some threat of a run.

An effective play-action pass slows down the pass rush and sucks in linebackers and safeties to give the wide receivers one-on-one matchups.

Three questions for New Orleans heading into week two.

1) Will Jermon Bushrod improve in his second career start?

Even though the left tackle did not allow a sack against the Lions, part of that was because of Brees' pocket awareness. Brees often had to scramble within the pocket because Bushrod was getting beaten by his man.

2) How effective will the pass rush be?

The Saints pass rush produced just one sack and four quarterback hits on Matthew Stafford. Some of the credit goes to the Lions for calling numerous three- and five-step drops for Stafford.

The Saints' front four only got two of the four quarterback hits, both from Will Smith.

3) Does Reggie Bush bounce back after a poor performance?

Bush was one of the few offensive players who had a bad game for New Orleans. His personal box score read as follows:

Seven carries for 14 yards, five catches for 55 yards, three punt returns for 11 yards, and two fumbles (one lost).

While the offense as a whole averaged 7.46 yards per play, Bush averaged just 5.75 yards from scrimmage.


Running backs Mike Bell and Pierre Thomas will have 30 carries and at least 130 yards on the ground.

Robert Meachem will lead the team in receiving yardage.

Drew Brees will pass for over 250 yards but less than 300. He will throw three touchdowns and one interception.

Jabari Greer and Darren Sharper will each have an interception.

The Saints will allow fewer points against the Eagles than they did against the Lions.

New Orleans 31, Philadelphia 24.