As Washington running back Matt Jones made a quick cut to head upfield for a 57-yard gain late in the fourth quarter on Sunday, linebacker Jordan Hicks, after he over-pursued and couldn’t make a diving play to recover, ended up face down, grasping for where Jones used to be.
That play on third down wrapped up the win for Washington.
A fitting end for an Eagles defense that had trouble tackling throughout the long afternoon at FedEx Field.
“When you shoot your gun, you've got to hit,” Hicks said on Thursday. “You can't miss.”
The Eagles missed plenty during their 27-20 loss to Washington. Missed tackles, seemingly out of nowhere, became a huge issue last week.
In all, according to ProFootballFocus, the Eagles missed 10 tackles on Sunday. And Washington picked up 156 yards after contact.
Coming into the week, the Eagles had missed just eight tackles and had given up just 149 yards after contact all year.
“We're at this point in the season where you're going up against these guys and your body might feel a certain way or whatever, but there are no excuses at this point,” Hicks said. “We understand that. We've worked a lot on tackling. We have really this whole time. So it's obviously a point of emphasis from the past two games. It's definitely something we have to correct.”
So the simple question is this: How do you fix missed tackles?
The answer isn’t so simple. Safety Malcolm Jenkins explained that once teams get into their seasons, they really don’t practice tackling anymore, especially with defensive backs. They’re more concerned with installing that week’s game plan and learning coverages.
Jenkins said linebackers practice tackling during the week some, but if defensive backs want to practice tackling, they have to do it on their own after the team practice is over.
While the tackling itself was bad on Sunday, there was a problem that led to the problem: bad angles.
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said his players took too many bad angles to the ball, which makes it much more difficult to tackle. Hicks agreed, saying the effort was there, but the bad angles made things tough.
Perhaps the effort went a little too far.
“I think the other part of it in this [last] game, and again, one of our failures in this [last] game, is we let one play affect the next,” Schwartz said. “I think in the first three games, even parts of the Detroit game, we didn't let a bad play affect our next play. I referenced one of the toss sweeps, we were short on the block and then on the next play, we came up and everybody overran it and the ball cut all the way back on us.
“In other words, we over-corrected and guys were trying — rather than just doing their job, the old adage in the NFL is, ‘Do your job,’ and we got guilty of trying to cover up and do a little too much. They need to just concentrate on theirs and [make] good tackles.”
When asked on Thursday, Schwartz was critical of his defense and himself (see story). The Eagles gave up 230 yards on the ground and 493 yards total — by far their highest totals of the season.
And a lot of it was just not getting Washington players down when they had the chance.
“I think that needs to be fixed and we will fix it,” Fletcher Cox said. “We've just got to calm down and just play ball. You've got guys coming full speed at a ball carrier and of course sometimes they're going to whiff, but the second guy has to be there to get the guy on the ground.”
The good news for the Eagles is that the Vikings have been the worst rushing offense in the NFL through their first five games, averaging 2.5 yards per attempt. But Schwartz joked that after watching the Eagles’ film against Washington, the Vikings will try to run 65 times on Sunday.
They likely won't do that, but Minnesota will probably be happy to test the Eagles’ run defense on Sunday.
If the Eagles want to win, they’ll have to cut down on those pesky missed tackles.
“You just get back to work, man,” WILL linebacker Mychal Kendricks said. “I just think it was one of those games where he was just slipping off. We have some of the best tacklers on this team and we were missing tackles. It's as simple as that. I think we just get back to work, get back to the fundamentals and basics and handle our business.”