Even after rough day against lowly Giants, 'sky isn't falling' for Eagles' D

Even after rough day against lowly Giants, 'sky isn't falling' for Eagles' D

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Eagles drove up the New Jersey Turnpike on Sunday and won their second straight road game. With the 34-29 victory over the Giants, they earned a first-round bye and cliched a 12-win season for the first time since 2004.

That was the good news.

The bad news: Jim Schwartz's defense played what was arguably it's worst game of the season (see Roob's observations). Arguably its worst game since he became defensive coordinator.

"There's a lot of positive and a lot of negative," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "Obviously, defensively, I don't anybody is happy with the way we performed."

It's not hard to figure out why. 

The Eagles' defense got off to a horrible start Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium and ended up allowing a two-win Giants team to score 29 points — the second-most the Eagles have given up all season and the most the Giants have scored all year.

The Giants also had 504 yards of total offense after the Eagles had given up 400 yards just twice all season.

The 504 yards of offense the Eagles gave up is the most in 30 games under Schwartz. The last time the Birds gave up 500-plus was the last game with Billy Davis in charge.

Despite all that, the Eagles didn't seem too worried after the game.

"The sky isn't falling," defensive end Chris Long said. "It wasn't falling when they scored 24 on us in the third week of the season. We're going to improve, we're going to get better. And we're going to be at our best."

Like they did against the Rams last week, the Eagles' defense improved as the game went on. After giving up 23 first-half points to the Giants, they tightened up in the second half, when they gave up just six.

And after bending in the fourth quarter, they didn't break. Corey Graham got a huge pass breakup in the end zone on fourth down with under a minute to play.

"We found a way to win," Fletcher Cox said. "That's really all that matters. As a defense, I know we'll come in and look at it and be critical of ourselves. We'll get it corrected next week."

It seems like the Eagles just struggle against the Giants. They gave up 24 points to them earlier this year. And three of the last four times the Eagles have given up 500-plus yards they were playing the Giants. 

On Sunday, the New York didn't use any kind of trickery to beat the Eagles. They used the same formula that has worked for them before. Slants, sluggos, Eli Manning getting the ball out of his hand quickly.

The common theme between last week's lackluster defensive showing against the Rams and Sunday's performance was that the opposing offense used no-huddle and tempo to get the Birds off balance. Jenkins said it's not surprising because of how much the Eagles like to rotate their defensive linemen and use different personnel packages, especially on third down.

When asked if it's concerning to see these types of defensive performances late in the season as the playoffs near, several Eagles players said it's not. Long said he's seen the team struggle and come back the next week with a solid performance.

So it's not concerning?

"No, it's not," cornerback Jalen Mills said. "You see the mistakes, you correct them, and you move on."

Doug Pederson's preseason comparison doesn't look so ridiculous now

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Doug Pederson's preseason comparison doesn't look so ridiculous now

When Doug Pederson said back in July that the 2017 Eagles "probably have more talent" than the Super Bowl Packers teams of the 1990s that Pederson played on, more than a few eyebrows were raised.

Millions of eyebrows maybe.
The Eagles? Who hadn't won a playoff game since 2008 and were coming off a 7-9 record in Pederson's first season?
More talented than a team that went to the playoffs virtually every year from the early 1990s through the mid-2000s behind Hall of Famers Brett Favre and Reggie White and reached back-to-back Super Bowls in 1996 and 1997, winning one?
"I look back on my time in Green Bay as a player when we were making those playoff runs, those Super Bowl runs there," Pederson said on July 17.
"And do we have as much talent on this team than we did then? We probably have more talent, right?"
Seriously, Doug?
Six months later, Pederson's comments — which seemed so ridiculous at the time — don't seem so ridiculous, do they?
Because here are those 2017 Eagles, sitting 13-3 with a playoff win over the Falcons in the books and a berth Sunday in the NFC Championship Game against the Vikings despite a rash of injuries to some of their best players.
The Eagles haven't lost a game with postseason implications since Carson Wentz was lost for the season, and they're one home win from reaching their third Super Bowl.
Pederson, who had two stints backing up Brett Favre with the Packers — from 1996 through 1998 and 2001 through 2004 — was reminded of his comments Friday before practice.
"I don't have a crystal ball, obviously, and it's hard to predict," he said. "You'd love to sit here and go, 'Yeah, in the summer, (I thought we were) going to be 13-3 and win the NFC East.' You'd love to be in that situation, or 16-0, or whatever it might be.
"I did have a feeling back then when I made that statement that we could be, we had the potential to be a good football team because of the way we've practiced and the talent that we brought to the roster and the progression of Carson in his second year.
"And then defensively, the front, the way they performed, and the back end, I saw a lot of the same similarities. So you just have that gut feeling when I made that statement."
Back in July, when Pederson made those comments comparing the Eagles to the Packers, he tempered them by saying talent isn't always enough. It takes much more for a team to have success.
"I (said) it takes great coaching, teaching, mentoring to also have our guys prepared each week to be in this position," Pederson said. "So all of that has kind of culminated. I think you look back on it and you go, 'Wow, maybe it was a true type of thing.'
"But we just keep doing our jobs, keep doing what we've been coached to do. Players play what they can do and what's in their control, and we're here today."

Only 1 Eagle questionable for Sunday

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Only 1 Eagle questionable for Sunday

Veteran linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring) is the only Eagles player listed as questionable for this week's game. Everyone else on the 53-man roster is expected to be available. 

Ellerbe, 32, missed practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday and Friday. 

The Eagles' starting MIKE linebacker was also listed as questionable last week and was able to play, so expect him to be good to go. After all, this is the NFC Championship Game. There's no resting for anything else. 

In Minnesota, wide receiver Adam Thielen (lower back) and safety Andrew Sendejo (concussion) are both listed as questionable. 

Thielen, the Vikings' top receiver, missed Wednesday's practice and was limited on Thursday and Friday. Just like Ellerbe, there's no saving him for next week. 

Sendejo was limited on Wednesday and Thursday, was a full participant on Friday, but is still technically in the NFL's concussion protocol. He'll need to clear that before he's able to play, but Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said he's optimistic Sendejo will be able to play. 

Meanwhile, third defensive tackle, Shamar Stephen (knee/ankle), missed practice all week and has been ruled out. While Stephen isn't a starter, he played just under 40 percent of the Vikings' snaps this season, so missing him is still a loss.

After practicing indoors on Wednesday and Thursday, the Eagles loaded up on buses and spent their Friday practice outside at Lincoln Financial Field. Head coach Doug Pederson likes to get his guys outside for at least one day per week. 

The Eagles will have a walkthrough on Saturday before they'll be back at the Linc for Sunday's 6:40 p.m. kickoff in the NFC Championship Game.