8:00 PM ET, August 11, 2003
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- If their first preseason game is any indication, the Philadelphia Eagles are ready to forget their loss in the 2002 NFC Championship game and challenge for a third straight NFC East title.Philadelphia beat the New Orleans Saints 27-17 Monday night in the exhibition opener for both teams.The Saints looked much like the same team that missed last year's playoffs after losing their final three games and five of their last seven.Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb spent just over 3 minutes on the field, taking the Eagles 75 yards to score on the game's opening series. McNabb was 5-for-5 passing for 58 yards. He hit Freddie Mitchell with a 29-yard touchdown pass, giving Philadelphia a 7-0 lead with 11:28 remaining in the first quarter."It felt good to get something going early," McNabb said. "I think offensively we were able to get our timing down as well as pick up the rush for the Saints in a game situation. It wasn't practice out there."Koy Detmer replaced McNabb and was 6-of-9 for 51 yards with an interception and A.J. Feeley was 11-of-18 for 98 yards and a touchdown for the Eagles, who lost 27-10 to Tampa Bay in January, one game shy of the Super Bowl.Philadelphia was without running back Duce Staley, who has been a training camp holdout. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Monday that Staley would be fined an additional $5,000 for missing the Eagles' preseason opener. As of Sunday, Staley's fine total was $70,000 for missing 14 days of training camp. He's scheduled to make $2.2 million this year.The Eagles got field goals of 29 and 49 yards from David Akers and Lito Sheppard had an 88-yard punt return for a touchdown as they took a 20-3 halftime lead.Feeley hit Kori Dickerson for a 1-yard touchdown in the third quarter to make it 27-3.Defensive end Jerome McDougle, Philadelphia's No. 1 draft pick, had four unassisted tackles and a sack.New Orleans quarterback Aaron Brooks, who had offseason surgery on his throwing shoulder, played less than a quarter and was 3-of-6. Todd Bouman, who played the rest of the first half, was 3-of-6 for 38 yards."The first time we came on the field, we held them to a field goal, which is always nice keeping them out of the end zone," Eagles cornerback Troy Vincent said. "Then we came out on that second drive and went three-and-out, got a sack, got a flag. That's a great start."New Orleans gained only 106 yards in the first half and was 0-for-7 on third-down conversions."We were sloppy in all three areas of the game," Saints coach Jim Haslett said. "We didn't execute very well at all."Curtis Keaton, acquired by New Orleans from Cincinnati last year to back up Deuce McAllister, had 45 yards on 16 carries in three quarters. He also caught four passes for 33 yards. McAllister did not play.The Saints' defense, which allowed 24.3 points a game last season, showed little improvement, giving up 333 yards.The main excitement for New Orleans fans came when Michael Lewis returned Philadelphia's first kickoff, rolled over the tackler who hit him at midfield, avoiding the ground, and scrambled into the end zone. His apparent 102-yard touchdown was nullified, however. An official blew his whistle when it looked as if Lewis was tackled. The Saints had a first down on the 46 and settled for a 49-yard field goal by John Carney to cut Philadelphia's lead to 7-3."It was an inadvertent whistle," Haslett said. "They were about as good as us tonight. And we weren't very good."The Saints added two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Tory Woodbury connected with Zach Hilton for a 26-yard touchdown and J.T. O'Sullivan threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Terrill Shaw.^Notes:@ The Saints are one of three preseason opponents Philadelphia will face during the regular season. The others are New England and the New York Jets. ... The Eagles played all 85 players who made the trip, while the Saints played 70 players and withheld 17. ... Only three Philadelphia players failed to make the trip because of injuries: TE Brandon Whiting (strained hamstring), WR Kenny Christian (strained abdomen) and TE Brandon Davis (knee). ... Third-round draft choice Billy McMullen led Philadelphia receivers with four of the Eagles' 26 receptions for 42 yards and another rookie, free agent Reno Mahe, had three catches for 22 yards. ... Haslett is 0-4 in exhibition openers; Philadelphia's Andy Reid is 2-3 in preseason openers after winning for the second straight year. ... The teams were the last of the NFL's 32 teams to open the 2003 preseason.