The Eagles’ season came to a heartbreaking end at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday, as they lost to the New Orleans Saints, 20-14, in the NFC Divisional Round.
"It's tough,” head coach Doug Pederson said after the game. “It's tough because it's so final. You're here at the end of the season and there's no more football for 2018.”
“I just told the guys to keep their heads up," he added. “We set out on a journey back in OTAs and we kept talking about having no regrets and leaving everything out on the field. They did that this afternoon and they battled right to the end."
After taking a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, the Eagles were shutout in the final three. The offense had a shot with less than three minutes to go after a Saints missed field goal kept it a one-score game, but a Nick Foles pass went through the hands of wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, and fell into the arms of Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore for an interception deep in Saints territory to seal the loss.
Foles was 18-of-31 passing for 201 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. He scored a rushing touchdown on a quarterback sneak, which proved the Eagles’ final points of the season.
Jeffery led the team in receiving with 63 yards on five receptions. The Eagles gained just 49 yards on the ground with Wendell Smallwood picking up 33 of them.
Although the offense struggled for most of the game, they could not have asked for a better start.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who only threw five interceptions during the regular season, loaded up on the first play looking for wide receiver Michael Thomas deep, but was intercepted by cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc.
The Eagles' offense took the field and ended a balanced drive with a 37-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jordan Matthews.
The Eagles' defense didn’t let up and forced a quick three-and-out on the next drive. The Eagles took over and drove down the field again, highlighted by a 30-yard pass to Jeffery on a third-and-7.
Two plays later, Foles snuck past the goal line for a touchdown and the Eagles took a 14-0 lead. On the drive, Eagles guard Brandon Brooks and Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins were carted off the field with injuries. Neither player returned to the game. Brooks announced on Twitter that he tore his Achilles.
The Saints were finally able to move the chains on their next drive, but the Eagles swarmed Brees on third-and-8 at the New Orleans 45-yard line and forced a fumble recovered by the Saints for a big loss.
On the third play of the second quarter, Foles underthrew a pass to tight end Zach Ertz and Lattimore stepped in front for his first interception of the night. The momentum swung from there.
The Eagles had the Saints stopped and facing 4th-and-1 at their own 30, but the Saints faked the punt and Taysom Hill took the ball 4 yards for a first down. A 42-yard pass to Thomas brought the Saints deep into Eagles territory on the next play. On fourth-and-goal from the 2, the Saints went for it again and Brees found wide receiver Keith Kirkwood for a touchdown.
On the drive, the Eagles lost cornerback Rasul Douglas, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, and defensive end Brandon Graham to injuries. Defensive end Michael Bennett left for a play with an injury but returned. The other three eventually returned after missing much of the second quarter.
After the teams traded punts, the Saints drove 67 yards and closed out the half with a 45-yard Wil Lutz field goal to make it 14-10.
The second half began with an Eagles possession that quickly went three-and-out. The Saints then embarked on an 18-play, 92-yard drive that took up more than 11 minutes of the third quarter. The Saints converted a trio of third downs to keep the drive alive.
The drive was capped off with a 2-yard touchdown pass from Brees to Thomas, who finished the game with 12 receptions for 171 yards.
The Eagles couldn’t respond on the next drive and punted after five plays. The Saints converted on third-and-5 on their next drive and then got a 36-yard run by Mark Ingram to move deep into Eagles territory. The Eagles made a critical stop there and held the Saints to a field goal to make it 20-14 with 10:28 left.
The Eagles couldn’t take advantage of a pass interference call on third down and had to punt after yet another short drive. The Saints took the ball at their own 25 with 8:30 to play. They faced a third-and-13 at their own 32 and yet again converted with a long play.
The Eagles’ defense gave the offense a chance with a critical tackle for loss by Bennett to force a 52-yard field goal, which was missed, giving the Eagles one last opportunity to put something together with the ball at their own 42-yard line.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, the turnover ended any hopes of that as well as the season.
Check out the best photos from the Eagles' game against the Saints in the Divisional Round.