They recorded five sacks. They shut down the run. They contained one of the league’s most dangerous running quarterbacks. They even got an interception for the first time in a month and a half.
A late Saints touchdown off a short field skewed the final numbers, but this was really a terrific performance by the Eagles’ defense Sunday night.
The spotlight may be on Jalen Hurts and the Eagles’ 246 rushing yards, but the Eagles’ 24-21 win over the Saints doesn't happen without a dynamic performance by the defense.
This was only the fourth time in five years the Eagles have had five sacks and two takeaways in a game.
“Before every game, throughout the week, we always say to ourselves, ‘We're going to be the engine,’” said Josh Sweat, who had two sacks. “Everybody's going to feed off of us. It never changes. We always come into the game knowing if we do well, we will always have a shot in any game no matter what, that's the approach we take.”
Drew Brees didn’t play, but the Saints came to Philly with the NFL’s 12th-ranked offense, 7th-ranked rushing attack and 5th-ranked scoring offense.
They were 10-2 with a nine-game winning streak and the No. 1 seed in the conference.
That’s all history. The winning streak is over and the Packers are now the No. 1 seed.
And the Eagles have life.
The Eagles blanked the Saints in the first half, held them scoreless on drives down to the Eagles’ 27-, 39- and 42-yard-line and got two huge 4th-quarter stops in Eagles territory with the game on the line.
And they did it despite another rash of injuries that knocked Malik Jackson, Rodney McLeod, Darius Slay and Avonte Maddox out of the game.
"At practice (defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz) always talks about, ‘Next man up, everyone has to be ready,'" Duke Riley said. "He puts everyone in position, he does a really good job of keeping the young guys ready. That’s why some of the guys came in and made some plays. I give all the credit to Jim. I think he’s doing a really good job with the defense."
The Eagles' defensive line had its best game of the year, with Sweat and Javon Hargrave combining for four sacks, three tackles for loss, five QB hits, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Fletcher Cox added a sack as well.
The biggest plays of the game were Sweat’s sack (and forced fumble) of Taysom Hill on a 4th-and-2 inside Eagles territory in the fourth quarter with the Eagles up three and Riley’s first career interception in the second quarter – the Eagles’ first INT in six games.
“I felt it before the game,” Riley said. “I talked about it with my family. I felt like it was going to happen. I don’t know, just sometimes you feel like you are going to make a play. Well, I always feel like I’m going to make a play but sometimes luck is just on your side.”
Turnovers have been few and far between for the Eagles.
The Eagles came into the game 31st in the league with 11 takeaways and tied for last with three interceptions.
They’re now 4-0 this year when they force two or more turnovers and 0-8-1 when they don’t.
“The more energy we can create like that, the more explosive plays, the more turnovers we can get for the offense, the more for this team, it just brings everybody together,” Riley said. “That’s the main thing. It was just really good for me to do that at the right time. It was something that the team needed.”
The Eagles’ defense is up to 13th in the NFL in yards allowed, 12th in points allowed, 6th in yards allowed per play, 7th in passing yards, 2nd in sacks and 7th on third down.
They’re keeping the Eagles in games and considering everything that’s all you can ask for.
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