8:30 PM ET, November 5, 2012
Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA
The Philadelphia Eagles have a quarterback and a coach both likely playing for their jobs. The New Orleans Saints are off to their worst start in the Drew Brees era following the best regular season in franchise history.
Arguably the league's two most desperate teams entering Week 9, either the Eagles or the Saints will be in even worse shape after Monday night's game in New Orleans.
Philadelphia coach Andy Reid said Wednesday that Michael Vick will remain the team's starting quarterback, even after he struggled again last Sunday in a 30-17 home loss to Atlanta. The four-time Pro Bowler was held under 200 yards passing for the second time in three games, throwing for 191 despite 35 attempts.
While Vick didn't turn the ball over, his 13 giveaways are still the league's third-most.
"I think there's a lot of things that I can do better," he said. "I'm trying to do everything that I can to put the ball in the end zone to give my guys every opportunity."
Vick's 78.6 passer rating is his lowest since joining Philadelphia (3-4), though a battered offensive line isn't helping his cause. Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters and center Jason Kelce are out for the season, and opponents have attacked the Eagles accordingly. Teams have blitzed Vick 99 times on passing plays this season, fourth-most against any quarterback.
He has been sacked 20 times in seven games after being sacked 23 times in 13 games last season.
"I just don't think he's as comfortable as he usually is," receiver DeSean Jackson told the team's official website. "A lot of pressure is getting in his face. A lot of defenses are showing different looks and things like that. With the quarterback that has the skill that he's able to make big plays with his legs and his arms at the same time, I think a lot of teams are just trying to shoot at him, and just come any way possible and just give him less time."
It has been rumored Reid's job also could be at stake, with the Eagles having lost three straight and coming off a season in which the team failed to make the playoffs. He recently fired defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, but Reid's offense has been having just as many problems.
Philadelphia's 17.1 points per game are tied for 28th in the NFL, but the struggling Saints -- perhaps with even more holes to fix -- could provide a temporary cure for the Eagles' woes.
New Orleans (2-5) has thus far fielded one of the worst defenses in league history en route to its worst start 2005, the year before Brees came on board. A 34-14 loss at Denver last Sunday was the Saints' most lopsided defeat in four seasons, and they became the first team to allow 400-plus yards in seven consecutive games since 1950.
"I've got to do a better job of preparing our football team," interim coach Joe Vitt said after the loss to Denver, his first game after a seven-game suspension for his role in the Saints' bounty program.
"I've got to do a better job of getting the team ready physically, mentally and emotionally."
The Saints rank 30th in points allowed (30.9) and are allowing an NFL-worst 474.7 yards per game, more than 100 worse than last season's team which went 13-3. They showed no improvement last Sunday, allowing a season-high 530 yards.
"On defense it starts with me," first-year defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. "Somehow, some way, I have to get better with my job. I hope everyone else does the same thing. When you add it all up, everybody gets better and the whole defense gets better."
The Saints' offense and special teams took a hit this week, as Darren Sproles won't play after undergoing hand surgery. Sproles ranks second on the team in receiving (39 receptions, 323 yards, four touchdowns), third in rushing (26 carries, 117 yards) and handles both kickoffs (averaging 28.7 yards per return) and punts (a 6.6-yard average).
New Orleans' offense also looked uncharacteristically average against Denver, netting a season-low 252 yards. The league's worst rushing attack generated only 51 yards and the Saints converted 1 of 12 third downs.
Brees leads the NFL at 330.0 passing yards per game but tallied 213, his lowest total since having 196 against Tampa Bay on Jan. 2, 2011. He's also completing only 59.7 percent of his passes, his worst rate since 2003.
Brees figures to have plenty of time to operate against a Philadelphia defense which has nine sacks, second-fewest in the NFL.
That unit didn't show much improvement last Sunday in its first game since secondary coach Pat Bowles replaced Castillo. The Eagles surrendered a season-high 146 rushing yards and allowed scores on the Falcons' first six possessions.
"You don't go from the outhouse to the penthouse in one week," Bowles said. "Right now, we're in the damn outhouse."
Jackson and Eagles running back LeSean McCoy should enjoy playing at New Orleans, as both have fared well in dome games. Jackson has averaged 100.6 receiving yards in seven career indoor games, while McCoy has averaged 104.2 yards rushing in five such games since 2010.
New Orleans has won three of the teams' last four meetings including playoffs, most recently winning 48-22 in 2009.
Eagles-Saints: What to watch
After watching film of both teams, Scouts Inc. breaks down key elements of the Week 9 Eagles-Saints matchup.
• Can Philadelphia play defense? This wide-nine defense, which is supposed to be so good in the pass rush, continues to be mediocre. The promise of a more aggressive defense under new coordinator Todd Bowles never really become a factor in Week 8. Saints QB Drew Brees should be able to do a lot of damage in the screen game with Darren Sproles. Also, offenses are running the ball successfully versus the Eagles' defense. Although New Orleans has not shown a commitment to the run game, this could be the week to pound it and set up play-action.
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New Orleans Saints
|Avg Points Allowed||22.9||28.6|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||PHI|
|Rush Yds Allowed||PHI|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|New Orleans leads 4-2|
|Sep 20, 2009||PHI 22, NO 48|
|Dec 23, 2007||PHI 38, @NO 23|
|Jan 13, 2007||PHI 24, @NO 27|
|Oct 15, 2006||PHI 24, @NO 27|
|Nov 23, 2003||PHI 33, NO 20|
From Elias: If Drew Brees throws for 300 yards or more tonight, not only will he pass Dan Marino on the all-time 300-yard passing games list, he'll also pass him on the Monday Night Football 300-yard passing games list.[+]
Since being drafted 1st overall in the 2001 NFL draft, Michael Vick has been explosive, as he's tied for 6th-most rushing TD's by a Quarterback since the merger. Drew Brees, drafted at the top of the 2nd round in the same draft, has outperformed Vick in most other areas, including winning a Super Bowl, which Vick has never reached.[+]
HEAD OF THE CLASS
Drew Brees has the highest completion percentage (58.3) and the most touchdowns (10) when passing more than 10 yards downfield this season. However, Brees has failed to complete more than half of such throws in four of the Saints' five losses this season.[+]
Drew Brees Passing More Than 10 Yards Downfield - This Season
The Saints have used five or more rushers at the 19th-highest rate this season after doing so at the highest rate from 2009 to 2011 (Gregg Williams was defensive coordinator). The Saints have the allowed the highest Total QBR (93.2) when using such pressure this season.[+]
Saints Sending 5+ Pass Rushers - Last 4 Seasons
Michael Vick has been sacked or put under duress on 32.5 percent of his dropbacks this season, the highest rate in the NFL. Vick has completed 27.8 percent of his attempts when under duress this season (fourth worst). Duress is defined as being forced to move or alter throw due to pressure.
Opponents are keeping Michael Vick inside the pocket this season, with under 10 percent of his passes coming outside the pocket (over 15 percent each of last two seasons). When Vick has broken the pocket, the most common outcome has been to throw it away. Vick has more throwaways (9) than completions (7) when passing outside the pocket this season.[+]
Michael Vick Passing Outside the Pocket - Last 3 Seasons
ESPN Stats & Information