Eagles need to shore up defense before playoffs
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Division title. Check.
First-round bye. Check.
Next goal for the Philadelphia Eagles is No. 1 seed in the NFC.
They can secure home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a victory over Oakland on Christmas night or a loss by Minnesota (12-3).
The Eagles (12-2) will need that edge they get at home to overcome a suddenly shaky defense.
Losing Carson Wentz didn’t stop the offense from rolling. Nick Foles tossed four touchdown passes in Sunday’s 34-29 win at the New York Giants.
But the defense allowed an anemic offense to rack up 504 yards while nearly doubling its average point total.
Coach Doug Pederson blamed some of the problems on being on the road three straight weeks, including a West Coast trip in which the team spent a week practicing in California.
“It’s been a rough three games,” Pederson said Monday. “I think there’s something to say about that, being on the road, and traveling.
“All of that can affect coaches and players. I do my part during the week to limit the amount of reps that we’re taking and try to get the guys on and off the practice field and make sure that they are getting rest and all the proper hydration, nutrition, whatever it takes, this time of year, to stay as healthy as possible.
“So it may appear that guys are fatigued at times, and I think it’s just a compounding interest of everything that’s sort of taken place in the last month of our season.”
Poor tackling plagued Philadelphia’s defense in a 43-35 win over the Los Angeles Rams and against the Giants. Still, Pederson isn’t concerned.
“Obviously being a football sport and a contact sport, tackling is everything,” he said. “You have to be able to get guys on the ground. We have to continue to address it during the week. This time of the year it falls a little bit more back on the player getting their proper rest, getting the nutrition, hydration, things we talk about during the week and making sure that they are as fresh as they can be.”
Eli Manning led the Giants on three straight touchdown drives to start the game, but the defense settled down afterward and came up with a big stand after New York drove to the Philadelphia 6. Like their coach, the players aren’t too concerned about it.
“We played a Hall of Fame quarterback, and we knew he was going to be ready to play,” defensive end Chris Long said. “We didn’t play our best ball, but we knew he was going to be ready to play and our offense did a heck of a job to help bail us out.”
The Eagles could have the No. 1 spot locked up before they play against the Raiders if the Vikings lose at Green Bay on Saturday night.
Pederson isn’t sure whether he’ll rest his starters if that happens. It’s more likely they play Week 16 and rest the final game.
Balancing whether to give Foles more reps because he hasn’t played much versus protecting him is tricky. Backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld has never taken a snap in the NFL.
“You just make the best decisions for your football team and if that means resting a guy, you rest a guy, or two or three,” Pederson said.
“But you also have to maintain the edge with these players, and you’ve got to maintain that confidence and that dominating swagger and you’ve got to keep that alive.”
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