For Eagles’ Defense, ‘Clutch’ Is Routine

Eagles Defensive Coordinator Bill Davis Speaks to PressThere is a portion of Chip Kelly‘s practice called “Clutch Period.”

The music gets turned up as loud as it can go, x-amount of time is put up on the clock, and the first team offense is pitted against the first-team defense. Kelly’s group is trying to score before time expires. Billy Davis‘ unit is trying to get off the field.

It was a familiar feeling, then, when the defense was called on with 3:26 remaining and given the task of keeping RGIII and the Redskins out of the end zone.

“Honestly, Coach Kelly puts us in situations like that every day,” said Vinny Curry. “We’ve been prepared for situations like that, and that’s why you never see anyone on the defense panicking.”

There might not have been any panic but there were definitely a few tense moments down the stretch of the Eagles’ 24-16 win over Washington Sunday. The defense pitched a shutout through three quarters but yielded two scores plus a pair of two-point conversions in the fourth, and the Eagles’ lead quickly shrunk to eight.

Following a beautiful 70-yard put from Donnie Jones, Washington took over at its own four-yard line with 3 1/2 on the clock. The Redskins set out on a 15-play drive that brought them to the Eagles’ 18. That set up a third-and-1 with 40 seconds on the clock.

“We have a good group of grown men that know how to not panic and fight through and hang together,” said Davis. “We know at the end when it gets all pressure-packed you’ve got to go back to your fundamentals and your technique and your training, and that’s what separates you.”

RGIII dropped back and faced pressure from Fletcher Cox almost immediately.

“I had it in my head that something had to happen. I knew a big play was coming,” said Cox, “so I stayed calm and I got pressure on [RGIII] and he threw the ball and [Brandon] Boykin picked it off.”

Griffin’s pass went high up in the air and made it into the end zone, where Boykin was waiting.

“I didn’t expect it to just be lobbed like it was,” said Boykin. “But that’s the type of things that happen when you get a  good pass rush.”

With that, the Eagles had secured their first home win in 413 days.

During the 10-game home losing streak, opponents racked up 273 points here at the Linc. That’s over 27 points per game. For a town that identifies with defense first and foremost, it’s no wonder why the building wasn’t filled with much juice over the past year-plus.

Sunday, though, was a different story.

“I thought our crowd was fantastic today,” said Kelly. “They probably deserved it as much as anybody. They were into it the entire game. It was an awesome feeling. There was a lot of energy in that stadium and we needed every ounce of it.”

Washington came in averaging 26 points per game, but left with 16.  Davis’ group has held the opposition under 21 points for the seventh consecutive week, giving up a sterling 17 points per game over that time.

“I think it’s about the growth that we’ve been talking about since the beginning,” said Davis. “The first time we played Washington it was going to be the starting point, and you know when you’re taking over an undertaking like this –with a major  scheme change, coaching changes and player changes — it’s going to take a while to grow. It’s nice to see the way it’s growing and it’s got a lot of room to grow obviously, but it’s nice to see we’re moving in the right direction.”

When asked how often the defense wins “Clutch Period” at practice, Curry tried to sell nine of ten times, then came clean a beat later that his bias might be skewing the numbers some. No matter, they were 1-for-1 Sunday.