Down 24-23, all they needed was a field goal. Their kicker, Justin Tucker, had already nailed a 48-yarder, a 51-yarder and a 56-yarder earlier in the game.
Many of the players who took the field for the Eagles’ defense were familiar with this situation. Last season, in five of the team’s eight losses, the Eagles had the lead going into the fourth quarter. And in the final 15 minutes of those games, they were outscored, 60-3.
But one of the players who wasn’t in Philadelphia last year is DeMeco Ryans. And while there are many reasons why the defense has come through at the end of the team’s final two games, the stability provided by the middle linebacker is certainly one of them.
The NFL gave football geeks everywhere our wish this offseason, announcing it would release All-22 coaches’ film to the public (for a small fee, of course).
Unlike TV footage, the All-22 angles account for every player on the field on any given play.
I took a look at the coaches’ tape and came away with some new observations from Sunday’s Eagles-Browns game. We’ll start with the defense here and post offensive observations next.
Here’s a player-by-player review of how the Eagles defensive backs performed Sunday against the Browns, after having re-watched the game. Click here for the review of the offensive line. And here for the review of the running backs, wide receivers and tight ends.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie with his hot pink-rimmed glasses resting a click south of his green mowhawk, answering questions quick and casually. Nnamdi Asomugha the stall over wearing a button-down and tie, carefully digesting each volley before returning serve.
On the field, Asomugha is the tactician, each movement measured and with purpose. Rodgers-Cromartie more loose and reliant on recovery speed.
“We laugh at that,” said Asomugha on the whole Odd Couple element. “But it’s always been like that. Every team I’ve been on there’s been a different personality with the other corner, and you see that throughout the league. But you know, it’s like a marriage: oppostites attract, so I’m good with it. He’s good with it.”
The key similarity is that they are both press corners.
Yesterday, we went over how the Eagles’ offensive talent stacks up.
Today, let’s take a look at the defense.
I sometimes wonder if Sean McDermott looks at the moves the Eagles have made on that side of the ball the last two years and thinks: Where was this when I was the defensive coordinator?
This offseason, the Eagles used three picks in the first two rounds on defensive players. They also acquired middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans from the Texans. But is the Birds’ talent where it needs to be on defense?
It’s not difficult to find stories about rookies looking great in camp, players who have had great offseasons and coaches vowing to make adjustments in the year ahead.
But every now and then, it’s important to look at the past.
So without further ado, here are five things to remember about the Eagles’ defense – some good, some bad – with an eye on the upcoming season.