Eagles Wake-Up Call: Defensive Leaders Strike Right Tone
There were words spoken and a tone set in the locker room at halftime Sunday that helped turn the defense’s fortunes. But they would have to get there first.
“I made some eye contact with some fans running into the tunnel at halftime. Man,” said Connor Barwin. “There was some rough language coming my way.”
“I think everybody was frustrated. I heard a few fans that were frustrated too,” said Chip Kelly. ” Go figure, but they had every right. I was booing myself.”
Once inside, Kelly said the coaching staff wasn’t “throwing chairs or anything” to show their displeasure over the 17-0 deficit. Similarly, the players took a more positive tact.
At least two veteran defensive leaders — DeMeco Ryans and Malcolm Jenkins — addressed their unit.
“DeMeco, he told us we weren’t having fun,” said Brandon Graham. “That’s our personality: we have to have fun out there. Once the second half came I think it was more fun out there, bouncing around, jumping around, people making plays. Even if it was first down, I saw people more into the game.”
As for Jenkins: “I told everybody, ‘If you’ve never been tested, you can’t be trusted.’ I think this was a great test for us today, and we passed it.”
The Eagles gave up a pair of touchdowns early, as Chad Henne twice found Allen Hurns for long touchdown strikes to put Jacksonville up 14-0. Josh Scobee added a 49-yard field goal before the break to extend the Jags’ lead to 17-0. There were a couple positive signs along the way despite the score, like the fact that the Jags were 0-for-6 on third down in the first half. They finished just 2-of-14 in that department.
“It got much better. We put an emphasis on it and usually, what we focus on, we get better at,” said Billy Davis of third-down efficiency. “The guys did a great job of pressuring the quarterback, covering, playing together and adjusting to the different things they were giving us. It’s early in the season, so teams give you new looks. I thought our guys did a great job of applying our rules and our tools.”
The breakdowns that bit the Eagles early were cleaned up after intermission. The defense forced five punts, a turnover on downs and a fumble lost on the Jags’ seven possessions in the second half. The night was capped with a Trent Cole forced fumble that Fletcher Cox returned 17 yards for a touchdown.
“Those are the type of wins that you can look back on and these are the ones that build your team and define your team, if people can fight adversity and not doubt whether you’re going to win the game or not, ” said Jenkins.
“It really wasn’t just me and DeMeco. I think everybody from a leadership standpoint — Connor Barwin, Mychal Kendricks — everybody who’s out there really had a positive vibe and that’s good because when the rest of the team sees the leadership having fun even though you’re down 17-0, at no point did we have bad body language on the sideline. We’re still smiling, laughing, because we’re having fun, playing fast, and that radiates throughout the team. When people see that, they start to believe that we can still come back and then sure enough Darren [Sproles] busts one open and then everybody believes. That’s what it takes: for your leaders to never go on that roller coaster and always stay positive, always stay up and always believe.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
Jeff Fusco took some great shots of the Eagles-Jaguars game.
Evan Mathis will have an MRI done on his injured left knee this morning.
“You’re your own worst enemy in those times.” Nick Foles survives shaky outing.
Sheil offers his observations from the Eagles’ roller coaster of a night.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Domo gives the Eagles a “C” for their overall performance.
The early coverage breakdowns by the secondary were disconcerting, as was Nick Foles’ deer-in-headlights first half. The injuries to Evan Mathis and Allen Barbre could have been devastating, but David Molk and Andrew Gardner stepped in and played well as the Eagles came back from a 17-0 halftime deficit.
Cody Parkey had a strong debut as the Eagles’ kicker, writes Andy Schwartz of CSN Philly.
“Big kick, but I don’t try to kick it any harder just because it’s a little longer,” Parkey said of his first regular season field goal attempt as an Eagle. “I’ve hit that kick a million times in warmups, so I knew I had plenty of leg. I aimed right through the uprights and put it through.”
Of course, Parkey took Henery’s job by hitting kicks longer than that one. In the preseason finale against the Jets — also at the Linc — Parkey made field goals of 54 and 53 yards.
For the Eagles, those field goals didn’t count. But for Parkey, they did. The pressure of kicking for a job had to help him in this situation.
“Guess it can’t hurt,” he said. “I hit a 54 and a 53 in that game. That gives me confidence going into games in the future.”
We’ll speak to Kelly at 1, and will get the latest on Mathis.