National Football League
Eagles remain unbeaten, but their one big flaw continues to show
National Football League

Eagles remain unbeaten, but their one big flaw continues to show

Updated Nov. 4, 2022 12:37 a.m. ET

The Philadelphia Eagles are still undefeated. But they're definitely not perfect.

Yes, it's nitpicking to try to find anything wrong with a team that's 8-0 and often looks dominant and maybe even unbeatable. And "wrong" is a relative term anyway for a team that's ranked near the top in nearly every conceivable category in the league. 

But the Eagles won't have to look hard at their 29-17 victory over the Texans in Houston on Thursday night to find the one thing that could be a big thing down the road.


This Eagles' run defense isn't good, and they have long stretches of absolutely terrible tackling.

And at some point, a better team than the Texans is going to make them pay.

The Texans, 1-6-1 and probably the worst team in the NFL, came pretty close. They were tied 14-14 at the half and down only 21-17 when the fourth quarter started. And, of course, it never should have been that close against a Philly squad that was a two-touchdown favorite.

But the Texans were able to sustain drives — including their first scoring drive on the opening possession all season long — riding rookie running back Dameon Pierce for 139 yards on 27 carries.

The Eagles defense knew Pierce was coming because the Texans don't have much else. But the first-year back from Florida just kept running through them time after time. He had 88 yards on just 13 carries in the first half alone. That included a 36-yard run where he broke through one tackle at the line of scrimmage, and three more down field before he was forced out of bounds. 

Even in the second half, when the Eagles' tackling on Pierce was better, it still seemed to take three defenders and a few extra yards to drag him down every time he got the ball.

Some of that was because of the loss of rookie defensive tackle Jordan Davis, who suffered a high ankle sprain last week and will be out about a month, and who might have been the best run-stuffer on the team. But it can't all be chalked up to the loss of one player, not when they're missing so many tackles as a team.

None of this is new. The Eagles have been one of the worst tackling teams in the league all season long —second worst, ahead of only the Jacksonville Jaguars if you believe the Pro Football Focus grades. And it started in Week 1, when Detroit's D'Andre Swift gashed them for 144 yards on just 15 carries — a ridiculous 9.6 yards per rush. Philadelphia is giving up 121.4 yards per game on the ground — astonishing for a team that has had leads of at least 10 points in every game it has played.

There are times and games when the Eagles look like they've fixed their problem, where they can stop the run with ease. But there are still too many long stretches where it looks like their defenders are allergic to whomever is carrying the ball.

And that includes receivers. In the second half, after the Eagles took a 21-14 lead, the Texans had a 2nd and 14 on their own 21. Quarterback David Mills threw a quick screen to receiver Chris Moore behind the line of scrimmage, and Eagles cornerback Avonte Maddox was right there to stop him. But he didn't. He ran right past him and Moore ended up running for 25 yards, igniting what became a field goal drive.

Of course, the Texans had no answers for the Eagles offense. If it weren't for Philly's first fumble of the season (by quarterback Jalen Hurts on the second drive), this might have turned into a blowout early. 

And regardless of their flaws, the Eagles defense continues to make big plays when they need them. Safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson had an interception for the fourth straight game. Cornerback James Bradberry picked off Davis Mills at the 3-yard line with 2:08 remaining. And that came right after defensive tackle Javon Hargrave had his second sack of the fourth quarter and third of the game.

So, all those missed tackles and lapses in the run defense weren't a big deal Thursday night. But you know when it might be a big deal? In their two late-season games against the 6-2 Giants and Saquon Barkley, who has the explosiveness to turn every missed tackle into an enormous gain. And in their next game against the 6-2 Cowboys, on Christmas Eve in Dallas. The Cowboys had 134 yards on 5.2 yards per carry in their loss in Philadelphia three weeks ago. Ezekiel Elliott had 81 yards on 13 carries, a season-high 6.2 yards per carry. That might've been enough for a Cowboys win if their quarterback that night wasn't Cooper Rush.

And the Eagles also still have to play the Tennessee Titans and Derrick Henry, the New Orleans Saints and Alvin Kamara, the Indianapolis Colts and Jonathan Taylor, and even the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Jones. The Eagles are better than all four of those teams, and they absolutely should beat them. But every one of those backs can cause problems if the Eagles defense is off.

Again, it's still nitpicking. For all the missed tackles and rushing yards allowed, nobody has beaten the Eagles yet. But they should heed the warning anyway because their goals are far greater than surviving a midseason game against the Texans.

And before they can raise that championship banner, they're going to have to do something about this big red flag.

Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the previous six years covering the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and before that, 16 years covering the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.


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