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How Can The Eagles Rebound Facing Pivotal NFC East Stretch?

NEW ORLEANS – Dissecting what happened on Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome is a brief conversation.

The Eagles were outclassed, top to bottom, by a New Orleans Saints team at the top of its game. New Orleans steamrolled the Eagles 48-7, Philadelphia’s fifth loss in its last seven games. It was every bit as ugly as the score indicates and, truly, there was not a silver lining -- other than a shout-out to the great fans who made it to New Orleans to cheer on the Eagles -- to unearth from this football disaster.

New Orleans gained 546 total net yards, gashing the overmatched and undermanned defense equally with the run (173 yards) and the pass (373 yards). The Eagles had no answers for quarterback Drew Brees, who passed for 373 yards and averaged an incredible 11.9 yards per passing attempt. New Orleans scored on its opening three possessions, taking a 17-0 lead before the Eagles responded. Offensively, the Eagles scored on a 28-yard Josh Adams run but otherwise offered no real threat to a Saints defense that, frankly, had been vulnerable for much of the previous nine games.

So, the Eagles left the Big Easy an embarrassed team. The last time the Eagles felt this low? Maybe that awful 32-14 loss at Cincinnati in head coach Doug Pederson’s first season, but perhaps in terms of a complete loss it would have to be when Chip Kelly’s 2015 Eagles lost 45-14 on Thanksgiving at Detroit.

Whatever. Doesn’t matter. This is a lousy feeling. And the real question is which direction Pederson and the Eagles are going to go for the remaining six games. Despite being 4-6 and having so many functional, in-game problems on top of major injury problems, and a clear lack of confidence, the Eagles are just two games back in the NFC East. I know it’s hard to even think about this, but the Eagles are still alive in a division in which Washington leads the way with a 6-4 record, the now-hot Cowboys are 5-5 and the Eagles are 4-6 with four games remaining in the division.

It won’t be easy, that’s for sure. The Eagles are a mess right now. And their next opponent, the New York Giants, have won two consecutive games and beleaguered quarterback Eli Manning completed 17 of 18 passes with two touchdowns in Sunday’s win over Tampa Bay. New York, no doubt smarting over that early-season loss to the Eagles at MetLife Stadium, has an array of offensive weapons that will put an Eagles defense that right now doesn’t know who will start in the secondary in tough spots.

How can the Eagles salvage this season? It’s a great question and there is no easy answer. As much of a roll as the Eagles were on 12 months ago, they are 180 degrees away now. They aren’t scoring points and they aren’t getting enough stops. Pederson has a tremendous challenge to keep this thing together. The Eagles haven’t played well all season and must play the rest of the way with a deep plague of injuries that is decimating the roster.

There is, I think we all agree, no margin for error in the NFC East games remaining. The Eagles have to win them all.

Where to start? At the beginning, of course. It’s too late to totally rip apart a game plan or an approach, but the way the Eagles are starting games is really poor. They were blanked in the first quarter on Sunday for the eighth time in 10 games. They’ve scored only 21 points in the first quarter of games this season – 14 of them coming in the October 11 34-13 win against the Giants. Quarterback Carson Wentz isn’t getting a lot of help with protection and execution, but he is not at the top of his game. On Sunday he threw off balance, he was inaccurate at times, and he looked indecisive. Somehow, the offense, Wentz in particular because the Eagles are a throw-first team, has to find some success early in games. After Wentz’s second interception of the game on Sunday, an off-balanced throw down the field when he was rolling right, his average yards per pass attempt was 3.7 yards. That’s not going to win any games in the NFL.

Wentz finished 19-of-33 for 158 yards and three interceptions, perhaps the worst game he's played in his three seasons in the league. It was ugly in every way.

The Eagles, clearly, are at a crisis point. To turn this season around, a whole lot of things have to happen. None of those answers are immediately apparent, and that’s the problem. The Eagles have to do more than “dig deep” and “look at themselves in the mirror.” They need a shake-up. How that happens, I don’t know.

All I know is that the Eagles are broken right now and they’ve got a week to fix it in time to beat the Giants in a true “must-win” game on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

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