Some passes got batted down. Other passes were thrown away. And others fell harmlessly to the ground, well short of their target.
After allowing an NFL-record five quarterbacks complete at least 80 percent of their passes in a seven-week span, the Eagles finally harassed a quarterback into a below-average passing performance on Sunday.
And that quarterback was Teddy Bridgewater, who came into the game as the 3rd-most accurate QB in the NFL at 70 percent.
It was a perfect combination of the defensive line consistently pressuring Bridgewater and the secondary playing tighter and more aggressive coverage.
It added up to a 61 percent performance from Bridgewater, his 2nd-lowest this year.
“Just being better,” safety Anthony Harris said. “As players, we want to take accountability for the lack of success but when we do well, we want to get that credit also. It’s really just about being great teammates, being great professionals, sticking together and working through it together as players and coaches to find a way to get it done.
“From a defensive and back-end standpoint, we take pride in knowing that we can go out there and cover guys. We just wanted to focus on executing and being in the right spot.”
Before Sunday in Denver, the Eagles had only held two QBs under 73 percent – Matt Ryan at 60 percent on opening day and Sam Darnold at 57 percent last month.
So when they hold a quarterback below 70 percent, they’re 3-0. When they don’t, they’re 1-6.
“When we talk about certain games that we struggled, it's like, ‘Well, the front's playing good, the back end (is) not.’ Or, ‘The back end is playing good (but) the front, we didn't win one-on-one's.’
“It always comes down to all 11 doing their job at a high level and when they get a chance at a one-on-one matchup, to win those."
The Eagles only recorded one sack Sunday in Denver, but they pressured Bridgewater more consistently than they’ve pressured any quarterback this year other than Jared Goff.
Now, let’s not get too excited. The Eagles are still on pace to allow the highest completion percentage in NFL history – 74.0 percent.
They’re still one of only two NFL teams ever to allow five 80 percent QBs in a season and just one shy of the record for most 70 percent quarterbacks in a season.
But this was definitely progress. And it was encouraging because we saw two areas of the team that have struggled – the d-line and the secondary – work together to make things difficult for Bridgewater.
“It's really a combination of both this - the back seven when we covered, did a good job of taking away certain things that Teddy … wanted (and) we covered extremely well," Gannon said. "And that leads to the front having a little more tick of time. And they won some one-on-one matchups where it wouldn't have mattered if we were covering. They just won and beat their guys.”
Things get easier from here on out.
The Eagles have faced 8 of the top-19 QBs in the league in passer rating so far, but they don't have another top-20 QB until the Cowboys rematch on the last day of the season.
“I think that defensive line played really well and was able to get some pressure (and) the coverage unit did a good job of making the quarterback hold it a little bit to allow the defensive line to get to him,” Nick Sirianni said.
“I’m always going to say it starts upfront, but I don’t want to take away anything from that secondary group," Sirianni said.
“(We) were playing really physical ball. We were just sticking them. At the end of the day - I was taught this a long time ago - the tougher and more physical team wins in football. It was good to be on that side of it and see our physicality take over.”
If they’re going to finally win a game at the Linc, the Eagles will need another big-time effort from the d-line and secondary Sunday to slow down Trevor Siemian, who has completed only 57.7 percent of his passes but has five TDs, no INTs and has put up over 27 points per game in three starts since replacing injured Jameis Winston.
Pressure isn’t enough. Coverage isn’t enough. The Eagles need both to continue to work hand-in-hand if they’re going to slow down some more quarterbacks down the stretch.
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