The Eagles' game plan - loaded with lots of Wildcat-formation snaps on offense and a modicum of blitzing on defense - didn't really matter in their home opener yesterday against the New Orleans Saints.
Things they didn't plan on led to a gloomy 48-22 beating on an otherwise bright and sunny afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field.
The 48 points were the most allowed by the Eagles at home since a 49-0 loss to Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers at Franklin Field in 1962.
Two botched plays in less than two minutes turned a tightly contested game into a lopsided loss that coach Andy Reid described as "an absolutely horrendous performance."
"Obviously there were too many mistakes, and that's my responsibility," Reid said. "I have to make sure this thing is right. It wasn't right today - any phase of it. In the first half, we had way too many penalties, and we were lucky to keep the game close. We came out in the second half and had turnovers, penalties and everything else."
By the time it was over, the Linc was almost empty, and quarterback Kevin Kolb had a sour feeling about his first NFL start, which actually had some decent moments.
"It's frustrating because . . . there were some good things out there," Kolb said. "I just hate that I kill myself and I kill the team with those turnovers. As a quarterback, you can't allow yourself to do that. It puts us in a hole. It put us in a hole at the top of the third and we couldn't recover."
The Eagles, despite trailing by 17-13 at the half, went into the locker room with some momentum after Kolb led the offense on a 65-yard drive in just 43 seconds that set up a 32-yard field goal by David Akers.
After completing 4 of 6 passes in the two-minute offense, Kolb left the field to a loud ovation. Boos would come later for Kolb and his teammates.
Kick returner Ellis Hobbs committed the first costly turnover of the second half. He returned the second-half kickoff 22 yards before the ball was ripped loose by Malcolm Jenkins, the rookie cornerback who was the Saints' first-round pick. Chris Reis pounced on the loose ball, and the Eagles' defense was then surgically taken apart by Drew Brees and New Orleans' high-powered offense.
"I got blindsided," Hobbs said. "I got away from one guy and saw nothing but green in front of me, and I didn't feel the guy coming from the back, and he made a good play on it."
Three plays after the turnover, Brees found fullback Heath Evans for an 11-yard touchdown that pushed the Saints' lead to 24-13. For the day, Brees completed 25 of 34 passes for 311 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
Kolb's first disastrous moment of the second half came two plays and 41 seconds later. The quarterback tried to throw a quick out to receiver DeSean Jackson but instead threw the football right to linebacker Scott Shanle, who returned it 3 yards to the Eagles' 24.
"We had been throwing that route in the two-minute drill leading up to the half and they trust me, if [the defender] gets width, to just check it back underneath," Kolb said. "I really thought I could get it outside of him."
Kolb thought wrong, and once again the Eagles' defense, which played so well in the opener at Carolina, came up small, surrendering seven points instead of three. Running back Mike Bell covered 13 of the 24 yards, including the final 7 on a run up the middle.
A four-point halftime deficit had ballooned to 18.
"That's tough," safety Quintin Mikell said of the game-altering sequence at the start of the second half. "We put ourselves in a bad position and, as a defense, it really doesn't matter. We've been in that position before, and we've held people to field goals. That's something we've got to get better at. Those are the times, if you're a good defense and you want to be a great defense, you've got to stop that kind of stuff."
The defense wasn't close to good. The Saints, behind the precision passing of Brees and the running of Bell, scored on seven of their first 11 possessions, which put a lot of pressure on Kolb and the Eagles' offense.
Kolb finished his first start with 31 completions in 51 attempts for 391 yards and 2 touchdowns. He connected with Jackson for a 71-yard touchdown pass on the Eagles' first possession to even the score at 7-7 and got the Eagles briefly back into the game with an 3-yard touchdown pass to Jason Avant late in the third quarter.
But he threw two fourth-quarter interceptions, including one that Darren Sharper returned 97 yards for a touchdown to put the finishing touches on the Saints' rout. Afterward, Kolb couldn't find a silver lining on this bright and sunny day.
"The fact is, we lost," he said. "The fact is, I had three turnovers again, and it upsets me. You won't feel better again until you get back on the field for practice on Wednesday. It's frustrating from a personal standpoint."
Reid said that if quarterback Donovan McNabb still can't play Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs, Kolb will again be the starter even though Michael Vick will be eligible to play for the first time this season.
Asked if there was any chance he'd be back, McNabb gave an I-don't-know shrug.
Kolb, of course, desperately wants another chance.
"Absolutely," he said. "And I want to get a win."