By Chris Burke
November 06, 2012

The Saints sacked Eagles' QB Michael Vick seven times on Monday night. (Getty Images)

Halfway through the season, the New Orleans Saints' defense remains in line to allow more yards than any team in NFL history.

Yet, with a 21-3 lead and 59 seconds left in the first half, the Saints called timeout before a 3rd-and-6 play by Philadelphia, fully confident that they could come up with a stop.

That's pretty much all you need to know about how Monday night went for the reeling Eagles. Despite 447 yards of offense (which puts the Saints' D on pace to allow 7,540 yards this season, 797 more than the record-holding 1981 Baltimore Colts), Philadelphia again stumbled on offense behind a calamitous offensive line and some highly questionable red-zone play calling.

The Saints made the Eagles pay for their numerous missteps, claiming a 28-13 win in front of their home fans. Both New Orleans and Philadelphia now sit at 3-5 on the season, but only one of the two teams feels like it's trending upward.

Spoiler: It's not Andy Reid's Eagles.

"If I saw that they weren't playing hard, I'd question them," Reid said in his postgame press conference, "but I think they're playing hard."

Before we dive deeper down that rabbit hole, a little appreciation for what New Orleans was able to do in this one.

Knowing that the Eagles' offensive line could only block with the help of a rule requiring defenses to count to 10 Mississippi, Saints defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo turned up the heat on Michael Vick early. Spagnuolo called blitz after blitz in the first half, disguising his coverages -- playing on Vick's continued inability to make pre-snap adjustments -- and turning his defenders loose.

That strategy paid off in the form of seven sacks and two forced turnovers, including Patrick Robinson's 99-yard interception return for a TD in the first quarter that gave the Saints a 7-0 lead.

As if it wasn't enough that the Saints discovered their missing defense, they also rushed for 140 yards on the night. Forgotten man Chris Ivory led the way there, posting 48 yards and a touchdown less than a week after many thought he might be a trade-deadline mover.

"Our football team played hard tonight," interim Saints coach Joe Vitt said. "We obviously made some improvements in our pass rush and red-zone defense. Got our running game going.

"Make no mistake we've got a long way to go ... but we made some plays. It was very, very encouraging."

It was all too much for Philadelphia. That's without even mentioning Drew Brees, who was his usual terrific self -- Brees completed 21-of-27 passes for 239 yards and two touchdowns.

For a brief moment in the third quarter, with New Orleans ahead 21-3, the Eagles fought back, offering the slightest of hopes that they might pump the brakes on this season that's quickly careening off the tracks. Brandon Graham sacked Brees and forced a fumble, then Vick hit DeSean Jackson for a long touchdown. The Saints fumbled the ensuing kickoff, too, opening the door wide for Philadelphia.

After reaching the New Orleans 8, though, the Eagles hit the wall. Vick dropped back to throw three straight times, resulting in two incompletions and a sack. The Eagles settled for a field goal to make it 21-13, then promptly allowed a New Orleans touchdown drive.

"Oh-(for)-five in the red zone, seven sacks and your tackling is terrible, you're going to struggle to win football games in this league," Reid said. "As coaches and players, we've obviously got to do a better job and that starts with me.

The question now: Is it already too late for Reid and his team?

Already Reid canned defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhigweg could be the next to go, if not Reid himself.

Reid did say after Monday's loss that Vick will be the Eagles' quarterback next week against Dallas, putting the early kibosh on calls for rookie Nick Foles. Honestly, though, with the way Philadelphia has blocked this season, even Randall Cunningham or Donovan McNabb in his prime would have difficult times saving this unit.

"I'm pretty frustrated," Vick said. "These are games we have opportunities to win. But everything has to be dead-on, it has to be dead-on. It's very frustrating, but we just have to keep pushing forward."

Philadelphia's horrid situation up front became even more troublesome when right tackle Todd Herremans exited with an ankle injury. Demetress Bell replaced him and proceeded to play the role of swinging gate -- Bell was victimized on three straight plays during Philadelphia's penultimate drive.

All the coaching shakeups in the world might not solve the Eagles' front-line deficiencies.

"Guys keep working at it and getting themselves better," Reid said. "The sacks, you can look at coverage ... do the whole thing. The bottom line is we've got to block the guys and do a better job."

While the Saints have won three of four and have a chance to declare themselves back in the mix against Atlanta next week, Philadelphia has now dropped four straight games.

The schedule remains favorable -- just one team currently with a winning record is left for the Eagles (Week 17 at the Giants).

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