A good start -- but just a start -- for Eagles' D

A good start -- but just a start -- for Eagles' D

September 10, 2013, 2:45 pm
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Connor Barwin chases down Redskins QB Robert Griffin III in Monday night's 33-27 win. (USA Today Images)

LANDOVER, Md. -- Defensive coordinator Billy Davis couldn't have expected this.

Davis last week admitted he "didn't know what's coming" from his new defense. At least he was honest. And he undoubtedly shared the same thoughts as the rest of us.

Last year's disaster of a defense had been dismantled. New secondary. New coordinator. New scheme. Old players playing new positions.

Last year the Eagles couldn't stop the pass, couldn't stop the run, couldn't pressure the quarterback and couldn't create turnovers.

In Monday night's stunning win over Washington, they did all of that (see Instant Replay).

"It was one game, so I'm not going to jump out there and say, 'We got it,' because we've got a lot of work to do, but it was nice," Davis said.

"We did a nice job against their run game, had some pressure, caused some turnovers, had the points down for the longest time. At the end there, it got a little loose on us and they came back, but part of that is trying to win the game. You win on the road in the division -- that's like a win and a half."

The Eagles held Robert Griffin III to a pedestrian 77.7 passer rating, limited Alfred Morris to 3.8 yards per rush and prevented a Redskins receiver from piling up 100 yards. The Eagles forced as many turnovers (three) as they did in their last eight games last year.

Each unit contributed.

Defensive line: Fletcher Cox recorded a sack, and Cedric Thornton batted down a pass to help stall a Redskins' drive in the fourth.

Linebackers: Mychal Kendricks was credited with a team-high six solo tackles and 10 combined. DeMeco Ryans had a sack to match his 2012 total and was credited with eight total tackles, second on the team. Connor Barwin showed his speed by tracking down RG3. DE-turned-OLB Trent Cole forced a fumble, was credited with a tackle for a loss and two QB hits, and a safety (see story).

"He attacked this whole defensive scheme change with the right attitude," Davis said of Cole, "and I think he'll benefit from it, and you saw a lot of that tonight."

Secondary: Cary Williams sacked RG3 on a blitz, had a diving interception and, two plays after Thornton's knockdown, leapt to break up a pass on fourth down. Brandon Boykin recorded the Eagles' first interception.

How good was the D? The Redskins didn't reach Eagles territory until the third quarter.

"The guys should be proud, and they are," Davis said. "It's still a starting point. What you saw tonight was where we're starting. There was a lot of good, and there's a lot of bad. There's a lot of things that we gotta get fixed and tightened down. There's a lot of things we're real happy with. It's a great start."

As Davis mentioned, it wasn't all good -- specifically the second half. The defense allowed three of the Redskins' four touchdowns -- but those three came in the game's final 15:11.

"The game changed. I probably pressured a little bit more than I should have," Davis said. "The second-to-last score was on a couple multiple pressures back to back -- I wanted to let them know that we weren't going to sit back and play prevent, and I got burned on it. Sometimes that happens.

"That's your whole conflict at the end -- do you sit back and rush three or do you bring some and put them on edge. I tried to mix it up, and they made some plays, and we played a little softer. The game changed -- it was all passes."

There was one pass that safety Patrick Chung won't soon forget -- a 24-yard rainbow that sailed over his hands for a score and kept you watching until the end.

"I just misjudged the ball. The ball came out wobbly," Chung said. "I thought it was going to land right in my hands. It just kept floating."

Said Davis: "Patrick just needed to be deeper and catch that one. He knows that."

And Davis knows this is just the beginning.

"I love it. We got a win on the road in the division," Davis said. "No matter how it came out -- I don't care if we gave up 500 yards and 40 points, if we came out of here with a win, then it was going to be a good night. Now the bonus is the defense played better than expected, but it is still a starting point for us, and we've gotta get better than we were tonight."