Weak offense kills Saints again

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 24, 2000

NEW ORLEANS — In an unfortunate replay of the Saints’ season opener, an anemic offense plagued with turnovers and a punt returned for a touchdown led to a 21-7 loss Sunday to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Saints (1-3) led 7-0 before the Eagles (2-2) drove 88 yards to tie the game on a 16-yard pass from Donovan McNabb to tight end Chad Lewis early in the second quarter.

New Orleans running back Ricky Williams fumbled on the first play of the ensuing drive and cornerback Troy Vincent recovered the loose ball on the Saints 21.

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McNabb found wide-out Charles Johnson in the endzone on the first play of the drive, only 20 seconds on the clock separating the two Eagles scores.

Veteran kick returner Brian Mitchell took a third quarter Toby Gowin punt straight up the middle of the field 78 yards for the Eagles’ third touchdown, the third score the Saints’ special teams have allowed this season.

&uot;We’re trying everything we can,&uot; Saints head coach Jim Haslett said of his special teams unit. &uot;We’ve played every guy on the roster, ran live kick-offs and live punts all week in practice. We’ve tried everything I can think of.&uot;

Mitchell also returned a first quarter kick-off 94 yards for what would have been a touchdown, but a holding penalty on Rashard Cook negated the score.

The Saints’ only touchdown came after a live punt hit Eagles special teamer Jason Bostric in the back and was recovered on the Philadelphia 20-yard-line by safety Chris Oldham. After a short pass to Williams and an offsides penalty, quarterback Jeff Blake faked a sweep to Williams that fooled most of the Eagle defenders. Blake bootlegged around the other end, scrambling 10 yards and diving for the touchdown.

Blake’s legs proved more reliable than his arm. Often failing to hit an open receiver, Blake finished 19-of-39 for only168 yards. He threw two interceptions.

&uot;They did a good job disguising the coverage,&uot; Blake said. &uot;I couldn’t find the guys I wanted to find. I just have to get better.&uot;

Although Williams earned 103 yards on 20 carries he fumbled three times, twice losing the ball to the Eagles. The first lost fumble led to Johnson’s touchdown catch and the second came after the Saints had driven to the Eagles 24. &uot;I single-handedly gave them 10 points,&uot; Williams said, referring to the likely field goal that could have been kicked from the 24. &uot;My job as a running back is to run the ball and keep it out of their hands. I didn’t do my job today.&uot;

&uot;I’m kind of concerned,&uot; Haslett said of Williams’ miscues. &uot;When I got here I hadn’t heard anything about him being a fumbler. He needs to get better, but so do a lot of guys on this team.&uot;

The Saints defense, which has played well against the run all season, held Eagles running back Duece Staley to only 44 yards on 18 carries.

The Saints have a bye week before traveling to Chicago to face the Bears on Oct. 8.