The Eagles had just snagged momentum away from the Giants.
Boston Scott’s explosive 56-yard TD run early in the third quarter and Miles Sanders’ two-point conversion run cut the Giants’ lead Sunday to three at 14-11.
If the defense could just get a stop, maybe the offense could score again and take command of the game.
But the offensive guys had barely made it back to the bench when on back-to-back snaps, Daniel Jones completed passes of 27 yards to Sterling Shepard and 38 yards to Golden Tate.
Three running plays later the Giants were back up 10.
Avonte Maddox was in coverage on Shepard and Nickell Robey-Coleman on Tate. Both had decent coverage. They just didn’t do enough as the ball arrived in the receivers' hands.
Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz rarely singles out individual players, but he made it clear he expects more from his defensive backs in those situations.
You can’t just let the 31st-ranked offense in the league pick up 65 yards on you in two plays in a critical moment in a game.
“There are talented receivers, but you've got to battle,” Schwartz said Tuesday. “We can't give up [two] completions for good chunks and them have a long drive and be able to take the momentum right back from us.”
It was the third time in five years under Schwartz an opposing quarterback had completed passes of 25 yards or more on consecutive snaps.
In 2016, Russell Wilson hit Doug Baldwin for 44 yards and Tyler Lockett for 30 in a Seahawks win in Seattle, leading to a field goal.
In 2018, Kirk Cousins hit Adam Thielen for 68 yards and Stefon Diggs for 25 yards in a Vikings win over the Eagles, also leading to a field goal.
“Having a guy covered isn't enough,” Schwartz said. “It's all about the finish. There's an old saying in the NFL that if it's man-to-man, the receiver's open. … So getting him covered isn't enough. You have to finish with those plays. I thought Golden Tate made an outstanding play. You're not going to make every one of those, but it's a contested play. Their other receivers sort of the same thing. But one little misstep, a slip, allows a second-and- long play to become a first down or a ball that just gets over our head or something like that. Close isn't good enough in this game and we have to win our share. We didn't win enough of our share of those plays and I think on a lot of them it was either one bad step early or it was the finish at the ball. Again, you're not going to win every one of those, but we have to win our share and we didn't win enough of our share in this game.”
The fact that Schwartz would single out Maddox and Robey-Coleman is curious.
Maddox, now in his third year, is working for the first time as a starting outside corner. Robey-Coleman, an eighth-year veteran in his first year with the Eagles, has been the Eagles’ primary slot.
It’s fair to say both have been disappointing so far, although Maddox has shown ability in the slot in the past. Neither is guaranteed anything beyond this year.
NRC is 5-8 and Maddox is 5-9, and Schwartz was asked if their height was a factor in the two key third-quarter plays that led to the Giants’ clinching touchdown.
He didn’t bite.
“All our shorter guys have outstanding leaping ability and they have all made plays on contested throws down the field and it really hasn't been a 6-5 guy that out jumps a 5-9 guy or something like that,” he said. “I wouldn't really put it up there. We just put it down to technique and finish. … It's been more just execution of a scheme or execution of technique and it also comes from battling.”
When a coach keeps using words like "finish" and "battle," the message is clear.
And it doesn’t just go for Maddox and Robey-Coleman. This defense needs to battle and finish across the board. And if it doesn’t, the results are going to continue looking like they did Sunday.
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