NEW ORLEANS – If only the Eagles could face the NFL’s 30th ranked pass defense every week …

… and if only quarterback Donovan McNabb could play with such decisive authority all the time…

… and if only the games still mattered for the Eagles, because yesterday’s wild, 38-23 defeat of the New Orleans Saints was the kind of result, and the style of game, that people in Philadelphia had hoped for at the start of the season and had craved with each passing week of inconsistency.

McNabb looked like himself, especially early. The Eagles looked like themselves. Expectations and reality were joined. Even given some defensive injuries, they really looked like a good team.

Too late, though. Too late.

The Eagles are 7-8.

Running back Brian Westbrook ran for 100 yards on 17 carries. Wide receiver Kevin Curtis, with six catches for 78 yards and a touchdown, went over 1,000 yards receiving in his first Eagles season. Curtis also scored another TD, the Eagles’ first of the game, when he recovered a McNabb fumble in the end zone.

And McNabb – 24-for-35 for 263 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions – went past the 25,000-yard passing mark during the game for his Eagles career. The franchise record is held by Ron Jaworski with 26,963 yards.

The first quarter might have been McNabb’s best of the season (or at least since the Detroit game, when everything went right). But it was full of craziness, too. The Eagles’ first touchdown came on the back end of a McNabb 40-yard scramble, when he had the ball punched out of his arm by the Saints’ Josh Bullocks and Curtis ended up falling on the resulting fumble in the end zone.

The Saints scored on their next two possessions to go up 14-7, but McNabb and the Eagles came right back to tie it and then take the lead. Correll Buckhalter scored on a 20-yard turn to make it 14-14, and then McNabb completed a 31-yard TD pass to Reggie Brown to make it 21-14. They never trailed after that.

The key defensive series of the game for the Eagles came in the third quarter, when they stopped the Saints three times from the 1-yard line, with rookie linebacker Stewart Bradley – playing because Takeo Spikes is out for the season with a torn rotator cuff – being given credit for the tackle, or least a hit, on all three downs. Later, in the fourth quarter, Bradley also had an interception.