Eagles D takes step backward

All that progress the Philadelphia Eagles’ defense made over two

months vanished in one day.

It doesn’t mean they’re back to the beginning.

Led by Matt Cassel and a third-string running back making his

first career start, the Minnesota Vikings scored 48 points against

Philadelphia on Sunday.

Cassel exposed the secondary with deep throws, connecting with

veteran Greg Jennings 11 times for 163 yards on his way to a

382-yard passing performance.

The Eagles (8-6) hadn’t allowed more than 21 points in the

previous nine games since Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos

scored 52 against them – 38 off the defense and 14 off special

teams – in Week 4.

”I think it was a bad day, but I think you always have your

strengths and weaknesses,” defensive coordinator Billy Davis said

Tuesday. ”We’ve said all along we’ve got so much more to do. This

is Year One. We have had a lot of success that probably was

unexpected.

”But the weaknesses, nothing has really changed. We just

continue to try to get better and better as we go. We did walk into

a bad game, a good Minnesota team. We have to learn from it and

respond to it. I believe they will respond in the right way.”

The defense faced a team missing its best offensive player,

reigning NFL MVP Adrian Peterson, and his backup, Toby Gerhart. But

Matt Asiata ran for three touchdowns in their absence.

Cassel took advantage of a depleted secondary with six pass

plays of 20-plus yards, and several third-down conversions.

Cornerbacks Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher struggled along with

safeties Patrick Chung and Nate Allen.

The Eagles sorely missed rookie safety Earl Wolff, who didn’t

play because of a knee injury. Nickel cornerback Brandon Boykin

sustained a concussion during the game.

”I have never coached in a game where we didn’t have multiple

errors. I don’t think anybody has. It just doesn’t happen,” Davis

said.

”There’s always the little things you have to tighten up and

get better. When you lose, a lot of times the mistakes you make,

they’re found. You always have to correct them. You have to be

really tight in your coverage and your assignment and doing your

job.”

Things won’t get easier for the defense this week against Jay

Cutler and the Chicago Bears (8-6). Brandon Marshall and Alshon

Jeffery have combined for 170 receptions, 2,450 yards receiving and

17 TDs. Matt Forte has 1,200 yards rushing and 522 more receiving

on 66 catches, and he’s scored nine TDs combined.

”It’s a huge challenge for us,” Davis said. ”Chicago might be

one of the most talented offenses we face. Big, physical Pro Bowl

receivers, two of them. They have a tight end who is a big,

athletic passing tight end.

”The running back is as rounded as any running back we’ve

faced. His pass protection is great. He runs the ball well. He

catches out of the backfield well. The offensive line is young on

one side, but it’s getting better and better as we go. The

quarterback can make all the throws. This is overall our biggest

test.”

The good news for the Eagles is the game might not mean much in

the standings other than playoff seeding, a No. 3 or 4. They have a

one-game lead over Dallas (7-7) in the NFC East.

If the Cowboys beat the Redskins in an earlier game, the

division winner will be decided when the Eagles play at Dallas next

week. If the Cowboys lose, however, the Eagles can clinch with a

victory over Chicago.

Notes: Boykin didn’t practice Tuesday because of the concussion.

… Safeties Kurt Coleman and Colt Anderson also were injured. …

Davis said he didn’t bench Chung for Coleman during the loss to

Minnesota. He was rotating them for two series apiece and will

continue doing that if Wolff can’t start vs. the Bears. … S

Keelan Johnson was signed off the practice squad and LB Emmanuel

Acho was released.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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