It will take time, but Scott Rolen belongs in the Hall of Fame
Flyerdelphia Podcast: Episode 17

Eagles Armchair: A Historic Performance By The Run Defense Powers Birds Past Bears

Going Deep

The Eagles didn't need a historic performance to beat the Bears. They barely needed an average one. Going into Sunday afternoon's contest as 13.5-point favorites, the Birds just had to take care of business and stay healthy before their trip to the west coast. But instead, the Eagles dominated.

The Bears came into yesterday's game with the league's third-leading rusher in Jordan Howard and the fifth-overall rushing offense, but they looked feeble against the Birds' fearsome front seven. The Eagles held the Bears to just six yards rushing and even that number is a bit inflated, thanks to Mitchell Trubisky's 11-yard carry in garbage time. 

In the history of the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday was the best run-stopping performance since Harry S. Truman was sitting in the Oval Office. League-wide, it was the lowest rushing yard total since the Eagles had just seven rushing yards against the Cowboys in Week 2 of 2015. Since 1940, the Bears have only had one game with less rushing yards, a 1952 contest in which George Halas's boys got just one rushing yard against the Los Angeles Rams.

The Eagles clearly weren't happy with just beating the Bears. They wanted to dominate them and show the rest of the league they are on a different level. 

"We made it about us," Brandon Graham told Philly.com. "We went out there and did our job. We weren’t backing down from whatever challenge we had. We’re going out there with the mindset that’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to stop their run … We don’t have to do [anything special]. We don’t have to finesse anybody. We just do our job and do what we’re coached to do."

The Eagles have allowed just 716 rushing yards this season and most teams give up even trying to run the ball in the second half. The Bears averaged 29 rushes per game heading into Sunday, but ran the ball just 14 times against the Eagles, including 6 in the second half when they realized their attempts were futile. 

It's been a long time since the Eagles have had such an elite defense that imposed their will on opponents and in a league that tries its hardest to dissuade defenders from playing a physical brand of football, a squad like this is becoming more and more rare.

Per Kyle Long, "They are one of the best defenses that I have ever played against." 

Injury Report

Did Not Play: Trey Burton (back), Beau Allen (knee)

Joe Walker: Walker hurt his neck covering a kick in the first half and never returned. The Eagles shored up their linebacker depth during the bye week with the acquisition of Dannell Ellerbe. If Walker is lost for an extended period of time, it would be safe to assume Ellerbe will be his replacement on the 46-man roster.

Measurables

262: Eagles running backs had carried the ball 262 times without a fumble this season, but that all changed Sunday as both LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi coughed up the rock. Blount had a second fumble late in the game, but it was credited to Nick Foles. By no means did the Eagles play a perfect game, they were sloppy and committed too many penalties, but it's a testament to this team's talent that they can struggle and still win by four touchdowns. 

30:47: The Bears offense didn't pick up a first down until the first minute of the second half, 30 minutes, 47 seconds into the football game. That is absurd. The last time the Eagles held an opponent to zero first downs in the first half was all the way back in 1992 when the Rich Kotite-led Birds beat the Giants, 20-10.

3: With his three touchdown, zero interception day, Carson Wentz became the third quarterback in NFL history to have 28 passing touchdowns and five or fewer interceptions through 11 games. The other two? Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. This kid is scary good.

Turning Point

In a game that was thoroughly dominated by the players donning midnight green, there really wasn't a turning point. So we'll use this section to appreciate all of the Eagles epic celebrations from yesterday:

I'm not sure how I feel about the bowling. I like the idea, and the concept should work well, as there are 10 players on the field who can be pins. But the pin placement is sloppy and Alshon Jeffery doesn't even roll the ball that is in his hand. Great concept, poor execution.

Now this may not be as creative, but credit the Eagles defensive backs for deciding to get in on the fun. Granted, the first time they broke out the Electric Slide, it came after an interception that was overturned, but the joy on everyone's face is priceless. The NFL must be loving all of these celebrations after they loosened their rules in the offseason. It's fun to see the Eagles actually enjoy themselves on the football field and not act like robots.

Up-Down Drill

Up: Zach Ertz

After a few weeks of sub par production, it was nice to see Ertz return to his All Pro form, recording the Eagles first 100-yard receiving performance of the year. Ertz shredded the middle of the Bears defense all day, picking up first downs and adding his seventh TD of the season. We already know Ertz is playing at a Pro Bowl level, but is he the best tight end in football? I'm not sure if he's better than Rob Gronkowski, but he's certainly close.

Down: Jay Ajayi

Ajayi had a rough game, picking up all of his rushing yards on one decent carry, on which he fumbled. Granted, Ajayi has been with the Eagles for just three games, so growing pains are expected as Doug Pederson works him into the offense, but Ajayi was clearly the third-best running back on the field for the Eagles. Hopefully he can right the ship against Seattle next week.

Up: Fletcher Cox

I think we sometimes take Cox's dominance for granted. He's a huge reason the Eagles are so stout against the run and he remains a pass-rushing force as well. Cox ha a sack and a tackle for loss, as well as two quarterback hits, yesterday. Sometimes it looks like he's just toying with opposing offensive linemen. Get excited for the Eagles game against the Rams in two weeks when we get to see the two premier defensive tackles in football, Cox and Aaron Donald, go back and forth.

Down: Malcolm Jenkins

The Eagles have made a huge deal about returning interceptions and fumbles for touchdowns, but Jenkins took it too far on Sunday, trying to turn nothing into something and fumbling the ball away. I understand wanting to capitalize on a big play like that, but Jenkins has to be smart and just go down and turn the ball over to Wentz and the offense. The veteran rarely makes a mental mistake, so I doubt this happens again.

Three-Step Drop

1. Wentz's stellar play has him atop many MVP ballots, but it's crazy to think, his sophomore season still pales in comparison to his backup's. Nick Foles's 2013 will always be remembered fondly for the whole 27-2 thing, but Foles is also the last second-year quarterback to post a higher QB rating than Wentz. In another ridiculous aside, Foles also has a better QB rating than Wentz in 2017.

2. With each passing week, it is worth wondering if Jim Schwartz will get any sort of interest from teams looking for a head coach. He has experience and his work with this Eagles defense is sure to raise some eyebrows around the league. However, Schwartz may recognize he will only get one more shot at being a head coach and wait for the right opportunity, a la Josh McDaniels.

3. The Eagles special teams has struggled in recent weeks, especially in kick coverage. The Bears had three kickoff returns make it past their own 30-yard-line, which is simply unacceptable for a special teams unit as good as the Eagles. With how well everything is rolling on offense and defense, expect some extra special teams work in practice this week.

Who's Next

The Eagles will face their stiffest test in over a month when they head to Seattle to play the Seahawks on Sunday Night Football. The Seahawks remain a dangerous team, but with Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril all sidelined for the rest of the season, their defense isn't as scary as it once was.

The Eagles' vaunted pass rush could also have a great night, beating up on the Seahawks' sub-par offensive line and making life miserable for Russell Wilson. This will be a tough game, but it is certainly winnable.

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)