Running game, defense give Eagles 39-17 win over Saints

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles' 39-17 win over the New Orleans Saints at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday looked very much like a meeting of two 1-3 football teams. Fortunately for the Eagles, they scored 13 points in 13 seconds in the third quarter to seize control of the game and eke out a victory.

Ryan Mathews’ 2-yard touchdown run with 6:44 left in the third quarter completed the Eagles’ nine-play, 80-yard drive to take a 17-10 lead. On the Saints’ first play after taking over at their own 20-yard line, quarterback Drew Brees was engulfed by Eagles defensive end Fletcher Cox. It was Cox’s third sack of the game and the second time he knocked the ball out of Brees’ grasp.

This time, Cox recovered himself at the New Orleans 13-yard line. On the next play, Sam Bradford threw an easy touchdown pass to wide-open tight end Brent Celek in the end zone.

After throwing two interceptions in the red zone in the first half, Bradford was able to bounce back with the strike to Celek. Kicker Caleb Sturgis missed the extra point, leaving the Eagles with a 23-10 lead.

What it means: It may not mean the Eagles are entirely in the clear. Again, this looked like two mediocre teams going at it. Whichever managed to make the first big play was going to win, and that’s what the Eagles got from Cox’s strip-sack of Brees.

But the Eagles are 2-3 going into next week's showdown with the NFC East rival New York Giants on Monday Night Football. The Eagles are 0-2 in division games and can get back in the division race while evening their overall record at 3-3 with a win next week. Last year at Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles shut out the Giants 27-0. They also beat the Giants 34-26 at the end of the season at MetLife Stadium.

So a win next week against the Giants will lend more meaning to Sunday’s win against the Saints. A loss will strip this game of its importance the way Cox stripped Brees of the football.

What were they thinking? The Eagles had two offensive linemen playing despite injuries. The Saints had two offensive linemen -- tackle Terron Armstead and guard Jahri Evans -- inactive with injuries. That was probably unavoidable for Saints coach Sean Payton, but the backup linemen were taken advantage of by Cox. His three sacks and two forced fumbles turned the game around.

One reason to get excited: The Eagles' defense has had its moments early in the season. Last week, it took a step back, giving up a 90-yard game-winning touchdown drive to Washington in the closing minutes. But against the Saints, the Eagles' defense was more of a force than at any time this season.

One reason to panic: It may be time to start worrying seriously about Bradford. He made two terrible throws in the first half. Both were in the red zone and both were caught by the Saints. Bradford was supposed to be Chip Kelly’s solution to the problem of not having an elite quarterback. Elite quarterbacks score points in the red zone. They do not turn the ball over.

Fantasy watch: The problem of how DeMarco Murray and Mathews could thrive in Kelly’s offense seemingly got solved. Murray and Mathews each had more than 70 rushing yards and a touchdown, and each caught three or more passes. Darren Sproles was involved as well.

Ouch: The Eagles started the game with one eye on offensive linemen Lane Johnson and Jason Peters. Both of them were able to get through the game and play effectively. First-round pick Nelson Agholor injured his left ankle in the second quarter. He was late coming out of the locker room in the second half but did return.