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Kurt Coleman and Cedric Thortnon celebrate the Redskins' turnover on downs in the fourth quarter of the Eagles' win on Sunday. (USA Today Images)
Remember how bad it was?
Through the first four games of the season — punctuated by Peyton Manning’s 52-point field day — the Eagles’ defense had allowed 1,787 yards, eighth-most in NFL history after four games, which included 1,300 net passing yards, seventh-most in NFL history.
It looked as if the defense was in for another long season of opposing offenses picking it apart.
Oh, how things have changed. The defense, in the midst of the Eagles taking over first place in the NFC East, has now held seven consecutive opponents to 21 points or fewer for the first time since 2007.
What’s been the difference?
“Some of the best units in football — offense, defense, special teams, whatever — they just say, 'Listen, nobody gives us respect, nobody respects us. I don’t care if we don’t have any name players on the field, we’re just gonna get after you,’” Brian Westbrook said Monday on Comcast SportsNet’s “Eagles Extra.” "And that’s exactly what this defense is doing.”
On Sunday, the defense bent but never broke. As Robert Griffin III led the Redskins — down 24-16 after trailing 24-0 entering the fourth quarter — from their own 4-yard line to the Eagles’ 18, the confidence of the Birds’ defense never wavered.
“Everybody had that look in their eye on that last drive like, ‘We’re not going to be denied,'” linebacker DeMeco Ryans said after the win (see story). “There wasn’t much that needed to be said. I felt like everybody knew we had to step up and make a play, it was just who was going to make it. We knew someone was going to make it, we just didn’t know who.”
Brandon Boykin was the guy this time with a game-clinching interception in the end zone.
“They’re getting after opponents, they’re getting after quarterbacks, they’re pressuring the receivers, making them run great routes to even catch the football,” Westbrook said. “This defense, it can play in the league with anyone.”
And because of it, the Eagles, a year removed from a 4-12 mess, are 6-5 and thinking NFC East title.
“This defensive line continues to get better, Bill Davis (defensive coordinator) continues to get better,” Westbrook said. “As a team … this team is coming along. It’s starting to shape up to a good football team.”