NEW ORLEANS – The Eagles' injury situation in the secondary became so dire in Sunday's 48-7 loss to the New Orleans Saints that the team finished the game with only three healthy cornerbacks, none of whom was on the active roster at the beginning of the season.
The Eagles entered the day without three of their top four opening-day defensive backfield starters, and they lost three more starters on Sunday.
Avonte Maddox left the game in the first half with a knee injury that appeared serious; he was immediately declared out of the game. Maddox, the rookie who had offered stability at safety after Rodney McLeod's season-ending injury, has recently become the team's the top slot cornerback, with Corey Graham taking over the safety duties.
With Ronald Darby out for the season and Jalen Mills (foot/toe) sidelined for the second consecutive game, the Eagles turned to Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas as their starting cornerbacks. Neither player finished Sunday's game, though. Jones, who missed a month with a hamstring injury, departed with another hamstring injury. Douglas left in the second half with a knee injury.
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Eagles coach Doug Pederson has a noon news conference on Monday when he might provide updates on the injured players.
The Eagles were left with Chandon Sullivan, Cre'von LeBlanc, and De'Vante Bausby as their three remaining cornerbacks. Sullivan was promoted from the practice squad on Oct. 25. LeBlanc was claimed off waivers Nov. 5. Bausby earned a promotion from the practice squad Saturday.
They weren't the only reason Saints quarterback Drew Brees went 22 of 30 for 363 yards and four touchdowns, but they didn't do much to stop Brees, either.
"You put it together, you piece it together, we brought guys up off the practice squad this week," Pederson said. "It's hard when you're going against a Hall of Fame player like Drew, and the weapons they have on offense. It's a difficult task."
Center Jason Kelce also left the game very early with an elbow injury — Kelce was declared out, then a corrected announcement said he might possibly return, but he didn't. Kelce declined to clarify anything afterward.
At game's end, long-snapper Rick Lovato was being evaluated for a head injury. That could be a real problem next week against the Giants because teams don't carry backup long-snappers. The Eagles would have to make a roster move to add one.
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Not only was quarterback Drew Brees still in the game with the Saints ahead 38-7 in the fourth quarter, he threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Alvin Kamara — on fourth-and-6. Brees, whose team faces Atlanta on Thursday, finally left the field with a little more than five minutes remaining.
Afterward, no Eagles were willing to say the fourth-down bomb bothered them.
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"That's Sean Payton. He'll beat you by a hundred if he can. I would do the same thing. I would try to put a thousand on someone if I could." linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill said. Grugier-Hill was one of very few Eagles defenders who faced reporters after the unit gave up 546 total net yards, including a stretch of five Saints touchdowns on five possessions.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson said, "No, they should [keep trying to score]. We have to play ball. It's football. If they're going to run it, then we have to tackle. If they're going to throw it, then we have to defend it. … I think if it was flipped the other way, we would have done the same thing."
Zach Ertz's historic season hit a bump in the road. Ertz has been on target to break Jason Witten's record of 110 catches by a tight end in a season, and Rob Gronkowski's record of 1,327 receiving yards in a season, along with a bunch of team records. But Ertz's output Sunday was just two catches on three targets, for 15 yards — his season low in both categories.
"They did a good job, sometimes double-teaming me, getting physical early in the game," said Ertz, who goes into next week's game against the Giants with 77 catches for 804 yards in 10 games. "Dropping D-ends out, to make me avoid them early in the route. Overall, we just didn't play well enough. I'm kind of at a loss for words with everything that happened. Not something I'm proud of, for sure, not something the city deserves, that performance."
Ertz said it was "probably the worst loss I've ever been a part of."
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