We get so caught up talking about the quarterback sometimes, it’s easy to gloss over the job the Eagles’ defense has done this season. They’ve now gone seven consecutive games without allowing an opposing offense to score 21 or more points in a game, and nine of 11 this season.
The rankings still have Philadelphia 31st overall based on yards, but that’s a joke. After holding Washington to 16 on Sunday, the Eagles moved into the top half of the league in points allowed, which even that is a flawed statistic as it does not differentiate scoring off of offensive turnovers or special teams returns.
The defense has been the surprise of the season for the Birds to say the least. Nobody expected them to be above average in the first year of a transition to a 3-4 alignment, let alone good.
Credit Bill Davis for the instant turnaround. The Eagles defensive coordinator managed to take the leftover personnel from the Andy Reid era, plug those players into his scheme and make it work. Now he’s got his unit so well prepared, apparently they know what’s coming beforehand.
At least, that was Robert Griffin III’s complaint following Washington’s 24-16 loss on Sunday, as he explained it to Mike Jones of the Washington Post.
“They did a good job of scheming us up,” quarterback Robert Griffin said. “They kind of knew what was coming before it was coming and that was disheartening. But like I told the guys, regardless of what’s going on out there, we’re the players and we have to make the plays work, and we just weren’t doing that in the first half.”
“Obviously, we ran the ball well, but in the passing game a lot of times, they were tit for tat. They were there, where they needed to be and a lot of times they were taking the routes that needed to be run and that’s disheartening, but we have to come up with something for that.”
Griffin said he didn’t take the Eagles’ success on defense as a sign that Washington’s attack has become predictable as a whole.
“I don’t think it has become predictable,” he said. “DeMeco Ryans is a good linebacker and they do good things with him and the other guy – Najee Goode. They allowed DeMeco to play the pass first. A lot of times, we were trying to hit those [play-action] holes behind him and he can run to those holes. I think on the back, they did a good job of running to those holes as well – kind of scheming stuff and knowing what type of hole we’re trying to hit on those three level holes, or whatever you might want to call it. I don’t think we’ve become predictable. I just think they had the right call in the right situation and they lucked into some pretty good recoveries.”
How many times have we heard all of that before, only it was somebody from the Eagles’ offense lamenting that their opponent knew what was coming? More than a few times under Reid for sure.
The Eagles have benefited from facing some one- and zero-dimensional offenses this season, but they’re taking care of business. Not every matchup has been cake either. They held Kansas City to 19 despite five turnovers from their own offense. They held Dallas to 17 and the Giants to 15 in consecutive weeks despite getting next to no production. Between RG3, Alfred Morris and Pierre Garcon, Washington had a nice collection of playmakers to stop on Sunday.
And there’s no denying how Davis has individual players performing. Trent Cole switched from defensive end to outside linebacker, and with three sacks in the last three games, his pass rushing is finally catching up to the job he’s done against the run and in coverage. DeMeco Ryans is the heart and soul of the defense and appears to have reverted to Pro Bowl form. Hell, noted bust Nate Allen actually looks like a competent and reliable safety.
They need to finish the season strong, but the Eagles defense is head and shoulders above what anybody believed they would be this season. And for perhaps the first time all season, that defense was arguably the primary reason Philly won on Sunday, not Chip Kelly’s offense.