Eagles’ defense bends, doesn’t break

All those yards the Philadelphia Eagles give up aren’t

translating into points for the opponents.

The numbers say the Eagles have the NFL’s third-worst defense in

total yards, allowing 398.1 per game. Only Minnesota (401.2) and

Dallas (426.8) give up more. But points determine the winner and

the Eagles are keeping teams out of the end zone.

Since Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos scored 52 points

against Philadelphia in Week 4 – 38 of those came against the

defense, 14 against special teams – the Eagles haven’t allowed more

than 21 points nine straight games. That’s the longest streak in

the league and the longest for the team since an 18-game stretch in

2001, including playoffs.

Overall, the Eagles have held opponents to 21 points or less in

11 of 13 games this year, which is tied with Carolina for most this

season.

”I thought we had enough talent on the defensive side of the

ball to be good, and it was just a matter of everybody getting an

understanding of what we’re trying to do,” coach Chip Kelly said

Wednesday. ”So I was confident in this group coming out of camp.

I’ve been confident with them all along and I think it’s

shown.”

It took players a while to adjust to defensive coordinator Billy

Davis and his 3-4 system. Players like Trent Cole and Brandon

Graham had to switch positions from defensive end to linebacker.

Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Patrick Chung and Conor Barwin had

to adjust to a new team. Rookies Bennie Logan and Earl Wolff needed

to get acclimated to playing in the NFL.

”We are nowhere near where we want to be yet as a defense,”

Davis said. ”It’s such a collective team game. But as defensive

coaches, we’re looking at what we’re teaching and what we’re

coaching, is it growing, is it getting better, and what we saw in

that Denver game is it was, although we weren’t playing the overall

defense we wanted to play at that point. But there was enough

little things that were moving forward that we were encouraged

by.”

The Eagles allowed 27.5 points over the first four games. Over

the past nine games, that total drops to 18.1 points. They forced

2.8 punts per game in the first four, 5.9 in the last nine.

Quarterbacks had a 107.2 rating against Philadelphia in the first

month, 71.7 since the loss to the Broncos.

They haven’t allowed any points on the opening drive in the last

eight games, and have held opponents to under 100 yards rushing in

seven of the last nine.

”I think each week it’s grown a little bit,” Davis said.

”We’re staying the course as a defensive staff with what we’re

asking them to do, the way we’re asking them to practice and the

techniques in the individual period, from how we meet, for when we

meet, and how long we meet, the little things that we demand of

them, and that is really what’s showing up on Sunday game

tape.”

Teams have accumulated yards against Philadelphia for a couple

reasons. Kelly’s up-tempo offense scores so quickly that the

defense is on the field a lot. The Eagles are last in time of

possession, so no other defense plays more.

But the Eagles are clamping down inside the red zone and forcing

turnovers. They’ve allowed just four touchdowns in the last 15

times opponents have reached their 20, and they have five red-zone

takeaways.

Still, Davis isn’t satisfied.

”I know the red zone is solid right now, but it can be

better,” he said. ”There’s so many little things that we can

communicate better in our fundamentals. There’s just so much growth

out there. Our run defense is getting better and better each week.

Keeping the deep balls and the big extra yardage plays off of us is

getting better as we go. But we’re nowhere near the top of the NFL

with a lot of those statistics, so you can always grow. The points

allowed is the number one thing we’re focused on, and we’ll

continue to drive that down lower and lower in the next three

weeks.”

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