Eagles Wake-Up Call: Outside Help


NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at San Francisco 49ers

The Eagles forced three fumbles against the Rams and in each instance, an outside linebacker was prominently involved.

Trent Cole‘s caused the biggest boom. He burst past tackle Jake Long with an inside move early in the third quarter and crushed quarterback Austin Davis, forcing the ball loose. Cedric Thornton recovered it in the end zone for his first-ever touchdown. That’s 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles through five games for Cole, who was celebrating his 32nd birthday Sunday. Reports of his demise may have been exaggerated. He has 10.5 sacks over his last 12 games.

“Hey, I’m the type of guy that’s going to make my actions speak. I kind of laugh every time you hear somebody say [my best days are behind me],” said Cole. “I just laugh, and smile and [say], ‘Here you go. Take that one.’ I hear about the heat that y’all bring to me. You’re bad-mouthing me and the next thing you know you’re like, oh s—, you back up. You back up. But that’s alright. That’s what you’re supposed to do.  I love it. It’s all part of it. I’ve been doing this for 10 years and I laugh about it because it’s all fun.

“I’m not done. I got some years left in me. I’m not going to say how many but I’ve got some years left in me.”

Brandon Graham had a big game, posting a couple quarterback hurries and a tackle for a loss.

“We were definitely scrapping to go get ’em. I wanted a piece of [Davis] so bad,” said Graham.

He also got Rams running back Zac Stacy to cough up the ball in the latter stages of the third quarter. Once again Thornton was on the case as he scooped up the loose ball and rumbled 40 yards, setting up a 24-yard touchdown pass from Nick Foles to Jeremy Maclin that made it 34-7.

Connor Barwin was the most statistically productive out of the three outside linebackers, finishing with two sacks, two tackles for a loss, a batted pass and a pair of QB hits. One of his best plays on the afternoon was much more subtle. With the Rams facing a third-and goal from the five-yard line early in the second quarter, Vinny Curry got a free run at Davis and jarred the ball loose for the waiting Fletcher Cox. Turns out, Curry was actually not lined up properly pre-snap. DeMeco Ryans had changed the call right before the play. Curry, who was supposed to shift inside, didn’t pick it up in time. Barwin realized this and slid into the spot that was supposed to be occupied by Curry. The integrity of the defense was maintained and Curry came off the left edge unblocked.

“That’s what comes with knowing your teammate and the chemistry that we have here and playing with each other. That’s a credit to Connor,” said Curry.

The Cole, Barwin, Graham trio has combined for 5.5 sacks and two forced fumbles over the last two games. That’s a positive sign for a group that came into the season with some question marks.

“It was you guys that had a lot of questions about us; we didn’t have any questions about our group,” said Barwin. “We knew that we could get pressure and we were productive again today.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

“Against a better team, we lose that game.” Defense unsettled after almost giving up lead. 

Check out Sheil’s observations from Sunday’s 34-28 win over the Rams.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Bob Ford on an offense still trying to find its groove.

The offensive performance against the Rams, although spotty and containing only one truly good drive, was an improvement over the shutout pitched against it the previous week versus San Francisco. Instead of gaining 17 yards on 10 carries, LeSean McCoy gained 81 yards on 24 carries. That’s still not vintage McCoy, and, worse yet, the Eagles are still unable to make opposing defenses pay for overplaying the run.

“We want it for Shady so bad, but if we’re winning, he’s going to have to jump on the bandwagon and be a team player. He knows that,” tackle Jason Peters said. “They’re loading eight and nine guys in the box. They’re trying to make sure it doesn’t happen. They’re challenging our receivers and saying, ‘Y’all beat us.'”

Reuben Frank writes about the incredible play of the special teams.

“We don’t go out there to try to block punts for touchdowns or score on kickoff returns or punt returns,” Maragos said. “We just try to do our job. And when you do your job and you do it hard and you do it the right way, then those big plays are going to happen. We have guys who expect to be great.”

This is already the first time in 48 years the Eagles have had four special teams touchdowns in a season.

And there are 11 games to go.

COMING UP

Sheil’s Zone Read coming your way in a bit. Chip Kelly speaks at 1 p.m.