Forty-eight to seven. The Eagles looked at the scoreboard at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 18 and the score started to settle in. Forty-eight to seven.
Not pleasant. At all.
"When you lose 48-7, I don't think you're ever going to get that taste out of your mouth," Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz said. "Horrible, horrible feeling. Embarrassing, humbling, all the words that you could possibly think of after that game were true. That's something you don't forget, for sure."
Said safety Malcolm Jenkins: "We were beaten through and through. We didn't have answers. It was important for us to take that game and process it as quickly as possible and move on to our next week. We did that and it helped turn our season around."
As bad as the loss in New Orleans was eight weeks ago, it also provided a springboard for the Eagles to get their season straight. Since that defeat, the Eagles are 6-1 and along the way they've beaten playoff-bound teams like the Los Angeles Rams, Houston, and, in the postseason, Chicago. The only loss was to the eventual NFC East-winning Cowboys in overtime in Arlington, Texas.
In most areas, the Eagles have been dominant, and here are some numbers to prove it …
From Weeks 12-17, the Eagles ranked second in the NFL (to Kansas City) in drive score efficiency (46.2 percent), scoring on 33 of their 76 offensive drives.
- Since Week 16 (Houston game), the Eagles' defense has faced 16 second-half drives. Only once have opponents run plays inside the red zone in that span.
- Since Week 12, the Eagles have held opponents to a 14.3 percent scoring efficiency (1-of-7) on first possessions (best among remaining playoff teams in that span), allowing zero points on six straight opening drives.
- Since Week 12, Philadelphia has held opponents to just 32.2 percent (28-of-87) on third-down conversions, including a 20 percent (5-of-25) mark in the last two games.
- Since Week 12, the Eagles have forced three-and-outs on 27.6 percent (21-of-76) of their opponents' drives, the best defensive three-and-out rate among remaining playoff teams in that span.
- In his most recent four games, quarterback Nick Foles has completed 38 of 46 passes (82.6 percent) for 431 yards, five touchdowns, one interception, and a 132.9 passer rating on third and fourth down.
The point is, everything changed after the loss in New Orleans. It was a galvanizing moment at a time when, let's be honest, the season could have gone one of two ways – and the second option was not going to be a pleasant one. The Eagles were 4-6 and nobody outside the team gave them a chance to revive their season.
"That game has helped us become the team we are today," Foles said. "Going through that, that's not easy as a team to lose like that. But there was never a pointing of the finger. It actually brought us closer. It can separate a team or it can bring us closer, and it brought us closer."
Said defensive end Michael Bennett: "I think for us it was one of those things where the media, everybody counted us out. Nobody would believe. For as many people who'd say right now that they'd believe that we'd be in the playoffs, they'd be lying, of course. ... All you got is your teammates and the coaches in the organization, I think, for us we came together as people and people who want to do something great together. We don't really care about the outside. That's how you gotta keep it going."
For veterans who have been around the league long enough to know that one game can turn a season around, bouncing back from 48-7 is easily done – players learn to turn the page pretty quickly in this league. For the younger players not familiar with the tough side of the NFL, well, it took a minute to bounce back.
Cornerback Rasul Douglas, certainly one of the most improved players on the team now that he's gotten some playing time and has built some confidence, said that the veterans showed the way and the young players followed their path. And now, looking at the entire picture, the Eagles are playing better football because they are an improved team.
They are a playoff team preparing for the NFC Divisional Round.
"We're just a better team now. Usually, you want to play your best ball at the end of the season going into the playoffs and that's what I think we're doing right now," Douglas said. "That brought us together, like, we're going to really need all sides of the football – offense, defense, and special teams – to click if we want to be one of the best teams in the NFL."
Forty-eight to seven seems like years ago, doesn't it? The Eagles are in a completely different space than they were then. They played their best football at the right time of the season to get into the playoffs. Then, they maintained that level of performance to beat Chicago on Sunday and stay in the playoffs.
Confidence is flowing.
"We believe in ourselves and what we're doing, but at the same time we know that New Orleans is a great football team and that we have to be at our best to beat them," tackle Lane Johnson said. "That's our goal – go out there on Sunday and play our best game of the season and I think if we do that, we're going to be feeling good about where we are."