Underdogs Again

You may have heard that there will be football game played this Sunday. No, I’m not talking about the Chargers and the Patriots. A lot of talk is centered around that game because most people think the Philadelphia at New Orleans game… well won’t be much of a game. I personally don’t believe that. If you’ve watched the Eagles fly through the playoffs then you know, being an underdog is how they like it.

And again

After the wildcard victory, I heard a ton of talk about how the Chicago Bears lost the game. The truth is that the Eagles WON the game. They played hard, left everything on the field and Philadelphia lives to defend their title for another week.

The Saints present a different set of problems. If you watched the 48 to 7 butt kicking the first game you don’t need me to convince you of that. I will make the argument that the Eagles are a different team now. They can beat the Saints but it won’t be easy. Here are my three keys to the game.

Time of Possession

As pointed out in the game preview article, it isn’t a secret that the teams that have success against a Drew Brees led offense need to play keep away. In all three of the Saints losses, their opponents won the time of possession. Three teams, Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Minnesota led in time of possession but lost the game. It is important to note that these six teams were either hyper efficient in their passing attacks or threw it a lot. The lesson learned here is you can’t control the clock against the Saints by running the football.

Tampa Bay and Fitz-magic went 21-28 passing attempts. Dallas was 24-28 throwing the football and Carolina was 18 out of 30. Carolina was the last game of the season though and Bress and Kamara didn’t see the field. Minnesota had 41 pass attempts, Atlanta threw it 47 times and Big Ben and the Steelers chucked the rock 50 times! The Saints run defense is strong. Foles will need to protect the ball and pass it often.

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Defensive Disruptions

The second key is to put pressure on Brees. One of the scariest sights in all of football to a defense is Brees standing in the pocket…with time to throw. The defensive disruption stat I’m referring to looks at tackles for loss, hits on the quarterback and sacks. The first meeting the Eagles defense had a score of four. Three tackles for loss and one hit on the QB. That ain’t getting it done. Since that game, on their winning streak, the Eagles have averaged a score of 18! Against the Bears, they had 15.

It will not be easy against the Saints offensive line. Finally all healthy, they allow on average seven and a half disruptions a game. The pendulum has to swing closer to the Eagles 18 than the Saints 7.5. The bad news is Jim Schwartz, unfortunately can’t just dial up a ton of blitzes because Brees has seen it all and beaten most of it. It’s going to have to come more or less naturally from the front four or Alvin Kamara will be in line for a big day. The good news is that the Eagles have enough talent to do it as evidenced by their league leading 133 hits on quarterbacks this season.

Been There Done That

The third key is the Eagles mindset. You are the champions until someone knocks you off the throne. Philadelphia has played with a champion’s heart for the past two months just to get here. Make no mistake, the Eagles are here and they belong. Yes, New Orleans is a very good football team with a lot of weapons. Brees is almost legendary in the dome. The Eagles have nothing lose. They will play all out just like in Chicago. If the reigning super bowl champions are close in the 4th quarter…well anything can happen. Just ask Chicago.

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