Eagles Burned By the ‘X’ Plays

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals

GLENDALE, AZ — One of the biggest things that Billy Davis has stressed to his defense since taking over is the importance of avoiding “X” plays, or plays of 20 yards or more. And through the first six game the Eagles were pretty good in that department, yielding 21 X-plays through the air, good for the eighth lowest mark in the league.

On Sunday in the desert, however, it was the big plays that did them in. Davis’ group surrendered seven plays of 20-plus yards to the Cardinals, including a pair long touchdowns that proved to be the difference in the game.

The backbreaker came with 1:21 remaining, as Carson Palmer found a streaking John Brown on 3rd-and-5 for a 75-yard touchdown. The rookie out of Pittsburg State got behind both Cary Williams and Nate Allen before snaring the pass in stride.

Allen took responsibility for the breakdown. He said that the defense was in a quarters look, where four defensive backs are expected to divide the deep half of the field. It is designed in part to prevent the big play. Allen, though, bit on a double move, allowing Brown to speed past him.

“I have to stay deep and make the play. That’s the bottom line,” said Allen. “That’s something we talk about big in the defensive back room, trying to keep those X-plays off us, those big plays. I take the blame for that last one.”

Allen pulled his hamstring during the sequence. He will undergo tests Monday morning to figure out the severity of the injury, he said.

Williams appeared to slow down as well in response to Brown’s initial move.

“You’ve just gotta play deeper in that situation,” said Williams. “He made a play. I thought I was going to be able to catch him but he was fast enough to get away from us.”

The other big TD came early in the third quarter. With the Eagles coming on the blitz, Palmer flipped it out to Larry Fitzgerald on the quick slant. Ted Ginn Jr. took out Malcolm Jenkins, springing Fitzgerald for an 80-yard score.

“The one big play we blitzed him and almost batted the ball and they got the slant, and the other we had a four-man rush and had more coverage,” said Davis. “They made two big plays on two different calls and they out-executed us on those calls.

“There was a whole game and a whole bunch of deep balls that we stopped, and they made a play at the end. The rest of it doesn’t really matter as much as the end of the game, you’ve got to make those plays to win the game in the NFL.”

Allen made one of the finer plays of his career earlier in the game when he stripped Andre Ellington along the sideline and recovered the fumble himself. But it was a costly mistake at the end that turned out to be the defining play.

With the trade deadline approaching, Pro Football Talk reported that the Eagles are looking for safety help. Allen was asked about that report at his locker Sunday evening.

“I have no idea,” he said.