To a man, every Eagles defender who spoke to the media following Sunday’s 17-10 loss to the Patriots agreed it was a total team loss, that the defense didn’t play well enough to win.
And there’s some truth to that.
True, the Eagles managed to gain just 255 yards of total offense and failed to get on the scoreboard over the game’s final 42 minutes. Their final 10 possessions ended in either a punt, turnover, downs or with time expiring. Most observers would lay the blame for the loss right there.
But if members of the defense were at all frustrated by the lack of production on the other side of the ball, it didn’t show in the aftermath.
“We’ve got these guys’ backs 100 percent, man,” Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. “We’re not pointing fingers. That’s not what this locker room is about. We win together, we lose together. Nobody is pointing fingers at anybody.”
Several players — particularly those in the secondary — took Cox’s sentiment a step further.
“I thought we played well and definitely battled, but there were some drives that we needed to win the game and we didn’t make the plays,” Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “We had a solid game but just didn’t make enough plays.”
The Eagles limited the Patriots' offense to 298 yards, forced a trio of field goals — including two on short fields — and eight punts. Tom Brady completed only 55.3 percent of his passes for a paltry 4.6 yards per attempt and failed to throw a touchdown.
Could anybody reasonably expect the defense to play any better than that against the greatest quarterback and dynasty in NFL history?
There was, of course, the trick play the Patriots used to score their one and only touchdown. Eagles defensive backs also got their hands on a number of Brady passes — five total, two or three of which looked like they could’ve gone for interceptions.
Even one pick could’ve changed the outcome of the game.
“The missed opportunities really probably affected the game the most,” said Eagles safety Rodney McLeod. “If we come up with one or two, it’s the difference in the game.”
Though the Eagles struggled offensively, it was against a Patriots defense that ranks No. 1 in yards, scoring and takeaways.
The Eagles were also without Jordan Howard and Alshon Jeffery and lost Lane Johnson to an injury early in the game. When the ball wasn’t going to Miles Sanders or Zach Ertz, Carson Wentz was handing off to Boston Scott or targeting Jordan Matthews, who was on the street a week ago.
Given the circumstances, it’s not totally unreasonable to place a larger burden on the defense.
“We knew it was going to be a defensive battle coming into it,” Jenkins said. “You can’t get frustrated in those situations. Our defense was playing just as well as theirs. We just have to stay patient and look for plays we can take advantage of.”
Nobody can say the defense played poorly, but they didn’t take advantage of opportunities, either. That’s what the Eagles needed to knock off the Patriots on Sunday.
“As a competitor, you always think you could be better,” Cox said. “As a group, as an individual, and as a team. There’s no excuses. We played a really good football team and came up short and now have to move on to next week."
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