Following the Eagles’ 17-3 loss to the Cowboys, the team’s defensive players did their best to stick to the script.
Win as a team, lose as a team.
But the truth was the defense kept the Eagles in the game. That's something no one saw coming beforehand.
"If you had told me going in that we could hold Dallas to 17, I would have thought that would be a really good chance of us winning that football game," Chip Kelly said.
The Eagles gave up 34.5 points per game through the first four weeks of the season. In the last three, that number has been chopped down to 19.3. Quality of opponent has to be taken into consideration. The first quarter of the schedule included matchups against the Broncos and Chargers. The last three have included games against the Giants and Bucs.
But Sunday featured a quality opponent, and Billy Davis' crew held up well for the most part against a Cowboys team that had been second in scoring. They pressured Tony Romo (two sacks, two INTs, 59.6 completion percentage), kept Jason Witten in check (four catches, 48 yards) and stopped the run (Dallas averaged 2.8 YPC).
One key was Davis' blitz packages. Per Pro Football Focus, the Eagles sent extra pressure on 18 of Romo's 50 dropbacks. On those plays, he completed 55.6 percent of his passes and averaged just 5.6 YPA.
"We were changing it up," Davis said. "We brought some all-out blitzes at him and we brought some overload and some different type things. But we just knew with that kind of a passing attack, and they were gonna come and give us no backs, that we just had to give him different looks. One of the looks was pressure."
As with everything else, there is the matter of expectations. Kelly expects the offense to be prolific and among the league's best. He hopes that the defense can improve and just be good enough.
"I've seen our defense every single week continue to grow and get better," Kelly said. "I think they've got a better understanding of what Billy and that staff over there are trying to do. ...I've always felt the effort has been there defensively. But now all of a sudden, some of the techniques are starting to shine through. The whole group is putting it together, and everybody's on the same page. ...If we continue to play with that effort and do a better job from a technique standpoint, I think we're going to be OK over there."
WHAT YOU MISSED
A position-by-position game review of the Eagles' offense.
Eagles seventh-round pick Jordan Poyer is headed to Cleveland.
The Eagles have signed LB Emmanuel Acho and released CB Shaun Prater, writes T-Mac.
The weekly snap count analysis shows a bump for Vinny Curry and a dip for Bryce Brown.
Kelly updates the status of Michael Vick and Nick Foles.
Our new feature, the Zone Read, will post the morning after every game. It includes locker room leftovers, play breakdowns, five thoughts on the state of the team and more.
Tony Romo had words of encouragement for Matt Barkley following the game.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
Paul Domowitch of the Daily News takes a look back at Sunday's game:
In six quarters against the Giants and Bucs, Foles completed 11 of 13 third-down passes for 92 yards. Against the Cowboys, he was 2-for-10 for 16 yards with one first down. Throw in Matt Barkley’s 2-for-4, 2 interception third-down performance and Eagles quarterbacks were a collective 4-for-14 for 52 yards with two interceptions, one sacks and just three first downs on third down.
Phil Sheridan of ESPN.com looks at the Eagles' QB decisions this offseason:
Smith is a more interesting case of what-if. He was taken by the New York Jets four picks after the Eagles took tight end Zach Ertz in the second round. Smith is 4-3 as a starter, including wins against Atlanta and New England. The Eagles are 3-4 with Vick and Foles. Right now, it is hard to imagine either of them being the Eagles’ long-term answer at quarterback.
So even if Smith turned out not to be the ideal franchise quarterback for Kelly, wouldn’t the Eagles be better off with a 23-year-old Smith? His presence wouldn’t stop them from seeking one of the promising quarterbacks in the 2014 draft. And it would allow them to trade either Foles or Smith, whichever brought greater relative value, after this season.
We'll hear from the coordinators and talk to players at the NovaCare Complex.