Eagles All-22 Wake-Up Call: Declining Defense

Billy Davis. (Jeff Fusco)

Billy Davis. (Jeff Fusco)

Surrounded by a horde of reporters in the Eagles locker room, Billy Davis took full responsibility. Just minutes prior, his defense allowed 45 points and 521 total yards to a previously below-.500 Buccaneers team.

Tampa Bay broke several records at The Linc, including the franchise mark for number of players (five) to catch a touchdown pass. They also became the first road team in NFL history to have a quarterback throw five touchdown passes and a running back to rush for at least 200 yards.

“I didn’t see this one coming,” Davis said. “We didn’t do anything well today starting with coaching. We didn’t stop the run and we gave up five touchdown passes. There are no excuses for anybody. It was an awful day.”

In just four weeks, the Eagles’ run defense has dropped from 3rd to 25th in terms of yards per carry allowed (3.5 to 4.4), according to Reuben Frank. Miami averaged less than four yards per carry, but Dallas and Carolina had notable success.

Three weeks ago, the Cowboys ran for 134 yards on 4.6 yards per carry; four weeks ago, the Panthers totaled 204 rushing yards on 6.2 yards per carry. Against Tampa Bay, however, the Eagles had their worst performance yet. They were gashed for 283 rushing yards on 6.7 yards per carry, while Doug Martin broke off 84-yard and 58-yard runs.

“We have not done that before,” Chip Kelly said. “People have hit us for six, seven, eight [yards], but we haven’t had runs break and get out the backside and go for the distance that they went for. We’ve got to do a better job tackling; we’ve got to do a better job in our fits in terms of where we’re going to be in gap defense.

“I don’t have an explanation for it, but I know we weren’t ready to play on defense. And we got to get that straightened out.”


When Kiko Alonso first came to Philadelphia, and when he returned from injury earlier this season, teammates and coaches raved about the instincts and ball skills that showed up in his Buffalo film. However, the inside linebacker had a rough showing Sunday as he registered just one tackle in 54 snaps.

Questions were raised about whether his health affected his play, but Alonso said yesterday he’s feeling 100 percent. Davis, meanwhile, offered a different opinion about his linebacker’s health.

“Is Kiko where he was in his rookie year? No,” Davis said. “He hasn’t been on the field practicing or playing enough [to be where he was as a rookie]. But there is growth there. Kiko is a good football player that flies around to the ball. There were a couple missed fits for him.

“You factor in, no matter how talented you are, you have to have the practices behind you and games. And the more you practice, the better you play on Sunday, and the more games you stack up, the better you play.”

On Martin’s 84-yard run in the second quarter, Alonso was responsible for the gap the running back exploded through. Taylor Hart was sealed to the inside and Walter Thurmond was blocked down field, but Alonso didn’t slow Martin down at all.

“[Alonso] should have been inside the block; he got outside of the block,” Davis said. “Then they got the post safety blocked with the receiver, so when you have one little missed fit like that, it happens quick. You’ve just got to be in the right spot.

“What it does is if he’s on the inside, it kicks it out and [Byron] Maxwell is there to make the play. Every run technique by the defensive lineman is attached to the linebacker fit, which is attached to the secondary. It’s really that when one guy gets out of whack in the run game, usually you have somebody fix it. But when you have one or two stacked together in that same run play, bad things happen.”

In addition to stopping the run, Alonso had some trouble against the pass. He covered Cameron Brate on the tight end’s 8-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter, but Jameis Winston also did a good job with ball placement.

“He’s one of the best [linebackers] in the league on tight ends in coverage and they caught a touchdown on him,” Davis said. “I think Kiko makes that [play] 9 out of 10 times. Give [Brate] the credit. [Alonso] got turned around on his leverage early in the down, which made the down hard for him and they made the play on him.”

Alonso also appeared to be at fault on a 17-yard screen pass on third down that extended Tampa Bay’s second scoring drive. The Eagles had a lot of trouble getting off of the field on third down, particularly early in the game.

In the first three quarters, the Buccaneers were 10-for-13 on third downs as Winston completed eight of his nine pass attempts for 79 yards and three touchdowns. On this play, however, Davis blamed himself.

“The one call I really wanted back in the game was the screen play,” he said. “It was a third down and I had a blitz called. We beat the protection earlier with that same pressure. They had the over-the-top screen, then they picked Kiko in the middle. He didn’t have a chance to make that play. They had a better call than I had there.

“Then I went to some zone so if they were running those tight concepts, we would be there for them. That game of chess, you just keep moving in and out of when you pressure, when you don’t, what they’re presenting, what formations. You’re just trying to put the guys in a position to make plays. That’s all I’m trying to do. When I hit a call that doesn’t do that, then I’m mad at myself. I have to make sure I change that.”


In addition to Alonso, DeMeco Ryans struggled some against the run too. When the Buccaneers faced third down late in the first quarter, Martin ran 58 yards to set up a touchdown.

Ryans played the fewest snaps of the three inside linebackers on Sunday and Kelly said he isn’t healthy enough to play an entire game, but Davis said Ryans’ health wasn’t the problem.

“I don’t think health had anything to do with it,” Davis said. “DeMeco didn’t line wide enough. They motioned on the play and built the tight end to the right. We were in a cloud coverage pressure, which I would have loved to have been in had I known they were doing the flip play.

“But the flip play, it captures DeMeco. If he steps wrong or aligns wrong, they take a jab step with the tailback, and then they do a flip. The tackle comes up and captured DeMeco. That was the problem. They had width out there. We had Nolan Carroll in a cloud force. So that ball gets all the way to the half safety.

“Now, that is where we needed the tackle to happen, right? Walt was outside in. The tackle should have happened. It didn’t get slowed down at all because DeMeco did get captured and it had speed. It took the corners chasing it down to get that thing fixed. They executed that play much better than we did. But it shouldn’t have gone for 58. It should be stopped at about 15.”


There’s a reason Tampa Bay selected Winston with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft back in April. His talent was on full display Sunday against the Eagles, but the theme around the locker room this week was that the defense beat themselves.

Winston threw for five touchdown passes and a 131.6 passer rating, but several Eagles said the Buccaneers’ rushing yards was the more important statistic.

“I thought the game plan was pretty solid,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “We really got away from all of the stuff that we had to practice because we didn’t do a good job of stopping the run. And that was really off of the players; we couldn’t take advantage of some of the things we wanted to do in the pass game because we had to go to single-high, put some guys down in the box to try to help out. And that really didn’t help, so what we planned to do going into the game kind of got thrown out because we had to adjust to what we were doing in the run game.”

Carroll agreed with Jenkins.

“Their run game definitely changed the game,” Carroll said. “When a team is able to run the ball like they did, it changes what we call and changes what they do as well. When they’re able to do that, it opens up the playbook as far as what they can do throughout the rest of the game. They had success running the ball, so it’s just easier for them the rest of the game to pretty much do what they wanted to.”

Carroll played his worst game of the season on Sunday as he covered three of Tampa Bay’s receivers when they caught touchdown passes. The first was a great ball from Winston to Mike Evans, but Carroll played his coverage too soft on the second.

“Honestly with his split, I was thinking fade,” Carroll said. “He just set me up and ran inside. He just darted in, and once he darted in and kind of got inside me, he kind of gave it to him on the run and just kind of squeezed in there.”

On the third touchdown he allowed, Tampa Bay ran a beautifully designed play. The two receivers to the left side of the field faked either a bubble screen or rub route — both of which the Eagles have covered well in the red zone this season — before the slot receiver pivoted and turned up field instead of running to the outside.

“They schemed us up,” Carroll said. “They knew exactly what coverage we were in and just beat the coverage. The bottom line is they just knew exactly what we were doing down there and just beat us.

“I guess they saw stuff on film that we’ve probably given away. It just seemed like they were in the perfect place for every coverage we called. Those things happen sometimes; sometimes teams just call a good game and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

With Carroll in coverage, the nickel cornerback he communicated with before the play was E.J. Biggers. Although Jenkins has played well as the slot corner for most of the season, Biggers played the position for much of the game.

“We felt with who was in the slot that E.J. was a good matchup there,” Davis said. “With the two star receivers at the ones, I wanted the safeties, I wanted Malcolm back and Walt to be able to play over the top of the ones and keep the corners on the ones. That was that week. This week will be a different week, there’s different match-ups.”

The Lions have two good receivers in Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, so will the Eagles again put Biggers in the slot instead of Jenkins?

“I hope not, because I think that’s where I’m most productive,” Jenkins said, “but moving forward it’s really up to the coaches.”

Regardless of Davis’ decision on that front, it seems the Eagles are unlikely to change their game plan much for Detroit because of the short week.

“A lot’s not going to change as far as scheme,” Jenkins said. “From both teams, you’re going to carry over a lot of what you did in the previous week and you just add a couple of wrinkles here or there. But you don’t have time to really put in a whole new game plan so you’ll see a lot of carry over.”


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Let’s play a fun game where you look at some stats and try to figure out which quarterback they belong to and which guy is better.

Player A: 255.2 passing yards per game, 1.1 TD-to-INT ratio, 82.4 QB rating.

Player B: 275.2 passing yards per game, 1.16 TD-to-INT ratio, 85.6 QB rating.

Player C: 209.7 passing yards per game, 1.16 TD-to-INT ratio, 75.9 QB rating.

Which guy do you want? Would any of those quarterbacks give the Eagles some sort of clear advantage? Or do the numbers appear more or less interchangeable?

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The Eagles take a 4-6 record into Detroit for a short-week Thanksgiving Day game that hardly could be less meaningful. With the invincible Patriots looming 10 days hence and with the Cardinals coming to town Dec. 20, the best the Birds realistically can hope for is an eight-win season. Even if eight wins somehow earn them the wormiest NFC East title in history, eight-win teams don’t win Super Bowls. That’s the point, right? The Super Bowl?

And, so, with six games left, this season is about next season.


We’ll finish up our analysis of Sunday’s game and begin previewing Thursday’s match-up.