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Saints' offense keeps heading backward in ugly loss to Eagles

PHILADELPHIA -- The New Orleans Saints' offense is literally going backward.

Drew Brees was sacked five times, lost two fumbles and threw a late interception while getting hit. And big-play specialist C.J. Spiller gained a total of minus-9 yards during the first 56 minutes in an ugly 39-17 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

I wrote two weeks ago that the "thrill is gone" with this once-potent offense. But things got even worse on Sunday as the Saints fell to 1-4.

New Orleans' attempts to generate those big plays that have been missing all season backfired miserably.

Brees stood in the pocket too long on two or three of his sacks while waiting for plays to develop down the field -- which was especially risky behind an injury-depleted offensive line.

That was the case on the costliest play of the day, when Brees fumbled in the shadow of his own end zone in the third quarter after pressure developed late against rookie left tackle Andrus Peat and guard Tim Lelito.

What it means: The Saints are a flawed team, plain and simple. The defense wasn't any better Sunday as it coughed up 519 yards to a Philadelphia offense that ranked 29th in the league heading into this game.

The Saints finally got their first two interceptions of the season in huge moments in the first half -- both in the end zone by cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Delvin Breaux. But they got zero pressure on quarterback Sam Bradford all day, and they were penalized on the two occasions when they hit him.

The Saints have just enough talent to remain competitive. They led this game 7-0 early and tied it 10-10 early in the third quarter before the wheels came off. But as coach Sean Payton said two weeks ago, they don't have enough margin for error to survive their shortcomings, especially when they pile up like they did on Sunday.

One reason to get excited: It's hard to find one after this game. Brees did hit on two of those deep throws -- a 46-yarder to Brandin Cooks and a 59-yarder to Willie Snead, and both receivers gained more than 100 yards. And Brees' shoulder felt strong enough to throw another pass 50 yards in the air. But deep balls have become way too hard for this team to pull off consistently, even before he suffered his shoulder injury in Week 2.

One reason to panic: Injuries weren't an excuse for the Saints' defense this week. Cornerback Keenan Lewis was still limited in a backup role, but they had mostly all hands on deck. It was disturbing how little pass rush they were able to generate on Bradford, who was off-target early but had plenty of opportunities to get comfortable and right the ship. Bradford wasn't sacked and threw for 333 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Fantasy watch: Just when fantasy owners started to trust Spiller after his 80-yard TD in overtime last week, he ends up with a total of 2 yards on six touches, including three negative plays. There was another play in which the Saints failed to hit him after a double-move on third down (when Brees campaigned for a penalty). And there was another moment in which Brees appeared to correct Spiller for not running the desired route. It shouldn't be this hard to get such a dynamic player involved in the offense.

Ouch: Nickel cornerback Damian Swann left in the first half with a head injury and did not return. His backup, Kyle Wilson, also left with an apparent leg injury. Lelito was out of the lineup late in the game, though it's unclear whether he sustained an injury.

UPDATE: Receiver Marques Colston was spotted with his arm in a sling after Sunday’s game. Fox sideline reporter Tony Siragusa reported that he left during the second half with an arm injury, though the severity is unknown.

Quick turnaround: The Saints always say they can't wait to get back on the field after a tough loss. Well, they'll get their chance Thursday night, when they host the rival Atlanta Falcons (5-0). Obviously that would be a huge chance to try to salvage this season.