Eagles Wake-Up Call: Davis’ Disastrous Defense

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Billy Davis. (Jeff Fusco)

DETROIT, MI — Billy Davis stood in the Eagles locker room yesterday before a pool of reporters who could’ve just as easily been using their recording devices as pitchforks.

Why is your defense so bad?

How embarrassed are you?

Do you think you’ll be fired?

Davis, the man in charge of a unit that allowed 45 points in two consecutive games, seemed helpless. He was confident in his players and repeated how his defense would turn things around, but he was missing one key ingredient: the blueprint to do so.

“We flipped everything. Everybody played. We mixed and matched different ways,” Davis said. “We played open field coverages; we played pressure coverages. We just have to collectively get it done, and we didn’t.”

Davis was often at a loss for words after the Eagles’ 45-14 defeat. He wasn’t sure what offenses saw on film to exploit his defense; he wasn’t sure what they need to correct going forward; and he wasn’t sure how the Eagles can make those corrections.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, the 2015 Eagles are just the second team in NFL history to lose consecutive games to opponents below .500 by at least 28 points.

“I have to figure out why the defense was playing so well early [but then] had two bad weeks in a row,” Davis said. “The guys are here; the scheme is here. I just have to figure out how to get it done. That’s all.”

If yesterday is any indication, it won’t be an easy fix. Matthew Stafford threw for 337 passing yards, five touchdown passes and a 137.8 passer rating, while Calvin Johnson caught caught eight passes for 93 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

The Lions entered the red zone six times yesterday, and turned every trip into a touchdown. Before scoring 45 points, Detroit tallied more than 19 points just twice in 10 games.

“Probably as complete a victory we’ve had around here, and I think all the way across the board, the guys played well,” Jim Caldwell said. “Matthew had a big day; Calvin had a big day. We had a number of guys that performed very, very well.”

The Lions head coach wasn’t exaggerating, and for as many Lions who had great performances, there seemed to be as many Eagles who played poorly. Eric Rowe struggled against Johnson — particularly in the red zone — and gave up two touchdowns. However, Davis often left the rookie on an island opposite of the All-Pro receiver without any help.

Chip Kelly, meanwhile, also struggled to explain why the defense was decimated — as well as his offense — and labeled the inquiry about why players aren’t performing better as “the question everybody wants to know.” However, the head coach did single out the pass rush as the Eagles’ problem on defense.

“We have to do a better job of getting to the quarterback,” Kelly said. “Them having too much time, try to create some more pressure. Calvin, obviously, was a very difficult matchup for us and we didn’t do a very good job of putting those guys in position to make plays that they have to make in a game like this.

“I think we tried to, specifically at halftime, tried to come after him a little bit more, brought a little bit more pressure on Matt, but I thought Matt did a good job. If you watched him a couple times, he checked into protections and got himself in a situation where he was picking up what was coming.”

One area of the defense that has been consistently questioned is the unit’s effort level. Because the Eagles are missing more tackles, blowing more assignments and letting offenses do practically whatever they want, those queries are increasing.

Malcolm Jenkins, however, denied that playing with a lack of passion is a problem for the Eagles defense.

“Your effort has nothing to do with the result,” Jenkins said. “If games were won strictly off of guys wanting to win, everybody would be undefeated. We work too hard not to come out here and not play with everything you’ve got. There’s nobody I look at I can say that they’re slacking.

“Just because you miss a play, you drop a ball, you miss a tackle or you give up a block or whatever, that doesn’t mean your heart’s not in it. Technique might have been off, it might’ve been a tough play call, anything could’ve happened, but I never really question anybody’s heart or want-to on this team.”

Even if Davis can turn around his defense, doubts linger as to whether he’ll have his job next season. He denied, however, that he’s concerned about his job security.

“Not at all. Nope,” Davis said. “I’ve been through a lot of NFL seasons. I know all of the risks and all of the scenarios out there, and I’m going to put my head down and work like we always have. Nothing will change.”


Chip said he’s sticking with Davis as his defensive coordinator.

“We’re going to find out the cowards.” Jason Kelce on the aftermath of the Eagles’ loss.

The defense was abysmal yesterday, but the offensive line was also awful.

Instant observations: T-Mac on a damning loss, an even lower point and more from Detroit.


Jeff McLane says Jeffrey Lurie will have to decide whether Chip is the coach the Eagles need.

“Kelly didn’t suddenly become a bad coach, although he increasingly has looked like one. Great coaches have had bad seasons and even bad tenures. Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll flamed out at previous stops before winning Super Bowls with the Patriots and the Seahawks.

Having Tom Brady and Russell Wilson obviously helped. The Eagles have more problems than just the lack of a franchise quarterback. Lurie will be the judge. He has been patient – sometimes to a fault. Kelly’s true feelings are unknown by most. He is a wild card.”

10 observations on yesterday’s game, from Reuben Frank.

Another part of the equation for Lurie is that he’s very big on public perception. Lurie can’t be happy with the way Chip has handled the losing streak in public. He’s come across as unlikeable, arrogant and condescending these last few weeks, and if Lurie is teetering about whether to fire Kelly or not at the end of the season, Kelly’s demeanor could be a factor.

Lurie wants a coach who is a classy, likeable front man for the organization, and Kelly has been anything but. You really tell a lot more about a man by how he handles losing than winning, and Kelly has really managed to turn off an entire city this year. If I was Lurie, I wouldn’t want him anywhere near my football team anymore.


T-Mac takes a look at what this loss means for Chip and whether the players have lost confidence in their head coach.