If you thought the Philadelphia Eagles’ defense had an extra edge to them on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game, they did.
And the team says George Kittle can be thanked for that due to what the 49ers tight end said about Philadelphia's defense in the week leading up to the Eagles' 38-7 win.
On the "Big Play Slay" podcast, cornerback Darius Slay explained that Kittle saying the Eagles’ defense looked good on paper “triggered” him and his teammates.
“But when he said that we looked good on paper, in the football world, we know how to take that,” Slay said. “That’s basically saying not too physical, that’s talking ‘bout we look talented on paper but are we gonna put the paper to the field? You know, so as a defense, with us being one of the best defenses in the league as well, we took that as disrespect.
“Because we didn’t say they looked good on paper. We said they’re a great defense, they’re a great team. We were trying to show our respect, which respect is due. But him saying that triggered a lot of guys in the locker room, including myself. Even though I still have a lot of respect for the guy, but it triggered us to go out and play a lot harder to show who’s physical. So you seen as the game was going on, you see who been the most physical team.”
Slay added that the Eagles gave the 49ers their due respect all week, but he and his teammates didn’t feel like they received that from Kittle.
NFL teams are always looking for any kind of edge, any kind of bulletin board material to get them a little more juiced up for a game. The Eagles found it in Kittle’s comments, but you can judge for yourself if their response was justified.
During the week leading up to the NFC Championship Game, Kittle was asked if the Eagles had the personnel to match the 49ers’ physicality.
Here was his answer:
“We’ll see on Sunday, won’t we? I mean, they’ve got six first-round draft picks on the defensive line, they’ve got a really good secondary, they’ve got physical guys at linebacker. So whatever you see on paper, sure. It’s the NFL. When you look at paper, it should be like, ‘Oh yeah, we can match their physicality’ and stuff like that. And then you get on the field on Sundays and the film after the game will show you exactly what you’re asking. I know we’re going to come out, we’re going to be violent, physical, I’m expecting them to do the same thing. We’ll see.”
The Eagles’ defense gave up a touchdown drive in the second quarter and that was it. While Slay said he never wants to see anyone get hurt following the injuries to both of the 49ers QBs, he believes the game did show the type of physicality the Eagles played with.
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And it wasn’t just Slay who felt that way about Kittle’s comments. Several other Eagles did too, including fellow defensive captain Fletcher Cox.
Cox also brought up Kittle’s comment in an interview with CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson in the locker room after the win.
“The paper defense,” Cox said. “So right now we’re just a paper team. Looks good on paper. I think we made 85 eat those comments.”