Tuesday Review: Defense keys latest Eagles win

It was understandable that all eyes were on Mark Sanchez for Monday night's game against the Panthers.

But the game was won by the Eagles defense. Pick any player. They all contributed. 

There were standouts. Connor Barwin was a stud once again with 3 1/2 sacks. Brandon Graham was all over the place, even if he didn't supply the numbers.

Overall, the defense's performance in the Eagles 45-21 win was a glimpse of what this team could do against the best of the rest of the NFL.

The Panthers didn't put up much of a fight, but the Eagles defense also never allowed them to find a rhythm. 

The Eagles defense has had its problems, and even on this night, there were times where they missed an assignment, made a mistake or didn't execute.

But for most of the game, the Eagles made a talented and versatile quarterback look mediocre. 

The Eagles will face some talented quarterbacks and offenses in the weeks ahead, starting with next Sunday's game against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Given their performance on Monday, on both sides of the ball, this team may be one defining win in Green Bay away from asserting themselves as the team to beat in the NFC.

All of this without their defensive quarterback and their starting quarterback on offense.

It's quite the accomplishment.

Somewhere during the second quarter, as the Eagles continued to take the ball away from the Panthers and create points from turnovers, there came a realization that most would have thought ludacris at the beginning of the season: the Eagles may just have one of the league's best defenses.

Barwin has 10 1/2 sacks this season, second-most in the NFL. Graham has four forced fumbles, tied for second in the NFL. The turnover differential hasn't been pretty, but that's certainly not a knock on the defense, which has created turnovers on a regular basis. Five was beyond the wildest imagination.

We can look at the way Sanchez has filled in for the injured Nick Foles in the last two weeks and, yes, his performance is a big reason the Eagles came away with two wins in that time. But if not for strong defensive performances, where would this Eagles team be?

You'll hear a lot of people discuss the Eagles 7-2 record and look at two one-yard losses – goal-line stops in both San Francisco and Arizona – that separate the Eagles from their current record and perfection.

The offense has been far from perfect. They have often times dropped the ball on chances to pad leads, get valuable points and win games there for the taking. But the Eagles still have seven wins.

That is a testament to the consistency of the defense, notably the pass rush. What the Eagles did on Monday wasn't unprecidented. Barwin and Graham and the others have played strong games before this season.

But this was on such a different level and with such ease, it made you wonder what if the Eagles happened to play like this against Green Bay or Seattle. Could they tame the beasts of the NFC?

Next week's game is the first test. If the defense has a repeat performance in them, it could help turn the Eagles from an longshot in the contender field to an instant favorite.

Kevin Durso is managing editor for Eagledelphia. Follow him on Twitter @KDursoPhilsNet.