‘A Win And A Knot In Our Gut’
Players and coaches seemed to be dealing with conflicting emotions following the Eagles’ 34-28 win over the Rams.
They walked off the field 4-1 and there is plenty to like about that, but the last quarter-plus Sunday left the team a bit unsettled, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.
For much of the game Billy Davis‘ group put the clamps on young signal-caller Austin Davis and a less-than-potent Rams attack. Davis was dialing up the pressure and the pressure was getting home to the tune of four sacks and three quarterback hits. The defense forced three turnovers, including a sack fumble by Trent Cole that Cedric Thornton recovered in the end zone for the defense’s second touchdown in as many games and third overall. It was on the backs of the defense and special teams that a 34-7 third-quarter lead was built.
But it almost slipped away. The Rams scored 21 unanswered to close the game. They cut the lead to six with 4:41 remaining when Davis found Brian Quick in the end zone, and moved into striking distance on their next possession thanks to a 43-yard completion to Quick with Bradley Fletcher and Malcolm Jenkins in the area. A pair of incompletions on passes intended for Austin Pettis (one of which was a blatant drop over the middle) slowed the drive, and the Eagles were able to escape with a win. Even so, they yielded 466 yards on defense and allowed a pretty poor Rams team to make a game of it.
“I think this one is going to sting. We’re getting out of here with a win and a knot in our gut defensively,” said Davis. “We’ve got to do better. We know we have to. There’s no way you can let people come back on you in the second half. We’ve got to go back and look hard at this film, hard at ourselves and see what went wrong and fix it. And we will. It was a rough second half. First half was exciting. Second half wasn’t.”
With the Eagles sitting on a comfortable lead, Davis became less aggressive in his play-calling. He deployed dime coverage, relied on a four-man rush for the most part down the stretch and had the rest of the defenders sitting back in zone. In some cases, there were communication issues. In others, the Eagles’ defensive backs were in position but simply failed to turn around and make a play on the ball.
“Some weeks we do that very well. Today we didn’t,” said Davis. “Today they came up with the plays. And it’s not that the guys can’t. The guys were on them, they were in coverage, that’s a positive. Now we have to make a play on the ball.”
“They’re an NFL team. They made plays when they needed to. We can’t expect a team to quit,” said Cary Williams, who gave up the TD to Quick that cut the lead to six. “It’s a 60-minute ballgame.”
Malcolm Jenkins noted that in the beginning of the season, the conversation was about how this group would start slow and finish strong. Against the Niners and Rams the past two weeks, it’s been the opposite. No matter the order, it speaks to inconsistent play. That reality left them feeling unsatisfied despite the win and the 4-1 record.
“It’s bittersweet. We had such control over them for most of the game and to give that back, we know we can’t do that again,” said Jenkins. “Against a better team, we lose that game.”