Eagles Insider

Why the Eagles had to leave Darius Slay on an island against D.K. Metcalf

Eagles Insider

After the game, Darius Slay was asked if he considered asking for help covering D.K. Metcalf.

"Hell no," Slay said. "Next question."

Because not giving Slay help was the very essence of the Eagles' game plan Monday night.

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz knew the Eagles' best chance to limit the Seahawks' scoring and give the Eagles a chance to win was to let Slay cover Metcalf and allocate the 10 other guys on defense to stopping everything else.

"It's all about limiting their offense," Schwartz said. "It's not about limiting one player."

The Eagles haven't had a cornerback you could even ask to cover a talent like Metcalf since Asante Samuel a decade ago.

But this is why Slay is here.

"We put a real, real big hat on Slay in that game because we gave him no help," Schwartz said Tuesday. "And I would like to say, with a player like that, never once during the week did he ask where his help was going to come from, never once during the game did he say, 'I need some help.' He just kept going out there and battling."

Slay shadowed Metcalf on virtually every pass play Monday night, and the second-year receiver beat him for 10 catches for 177 yards.

Slay called it the worst game of his career.

But the Eagles did keep the game close, despite another miserable offensive performance. The defense held the Seahawks to 2.5 yards per run, Tyler Lockett was a non-factor, the Seahawks hit only two 20-yard plays and Russell Wilson was never able to get going as a runner. And although the Seahawks scored 23 points, nine of them came on field goals after very short drives.

 

The Seahawks gained a season-low 301 yards, 100 below their average. Their 23 points were nine below their season average.

"I think we have a pretty good feel for how to play Seattle's offense," Schwartz said. "The last three times we faced them, we have done a decent job of keeping the score down.

"And in order to keep Russell from scrambling, in order to handle their run game, in order to handle Lockett and do all those other things, we had to put that hat on Slay, and I don't look at it like he cost us the game," Schwartz said.

 "His willingness to take that matchup allowed us to do a lot of other things that you have to do when you play Seattle. If we had made ourselves weak in the run game or made ourselves weak on the scrambles, all those other guys could have had big days. When it's all said and done, it's not him. He kept him out of the end zone and that was a big part of that game."

So from the outside, it's easy to focus on Metcalf going off for 177 yards.

But from the inside, it was a matter of what gives the offensively challenged Eagles the best chance to pull off the upset.

And if it weren't for the one bomb that Metcalf caught — a 52-yarder in the second quarter down to the 1-yard-line that set up the Seahawks' first touchdown — the plan would have worked.

"He didn't have the greatest day," Schwartz said. "He knows that. And really the only play I was disappointed with Slay in was the zero blitz. We knew it's a low-scoring game. We're trying to keep them out of field goal range. I run a zero blitz at mid-field, and he needs to be over the top and inside of that route (and he) gave that one up. But the other plays fall to life in the big city.

"One of the reasons we were able to keep the score reasonable and do all those things was because of Slay and [his] accepting the fact that he wasn't going to get any help."

The Eagles are 9th in the NFL in defense, 5th in points allowed per play, 8th in pass defense and 9th in rushing yards per play.

They're 17th in points allowed only because the offense continuously presents them with terrible field position to work with.

"Any player that takes on a heavy role in a game plan, it takes a special kind of personality to do that and it takes a resilience," Schwartz said. "And that's part of the definition or the job description of a No. 1 corner to do that.

"Not everybody has that skill set, not everybody can live with that, but those players that can embrace that, that don't get discouraged if they give up a completion, keep bouncing back and going, I have a lot of appreciation for those guys."

 

Schwartz's game plan was designed not to limit Metcalf's yards but to give the Eagles the best possible chance to win the game.

It almost worked.

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