ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Eagles defense held the Bills to 10 second-half points and nearly helped the team climb back from a 17-point third quarter deficit in Sunday's 31-24 loss to the Bills.
But defensive coordinator Juan Castillo is not going to take any solace in that. He knows that the defense needs to be better in the first half.
In reality, the Eagles defense only gave up 14 first-half points as one touchdown was a result of Nick Barnett's interception return for a touchdown. Two other turnovers early by the Eagles gave the Bills offense good field position. But Castillo is not going to use that as an excuse.
"Those are not tough situations. Those are situations that we have to be able to handle," Castillo said. "We're a team. We're together. We win together. We lose together. We just have to do a better job."
The Bills had success early in the run game operating out of their spread attack. On the Bills' first drive, Fred Jackson carried the ball six times for 36 yards and scored on a 5-yard run. Most of the runs were up the middle. Jackson finished the game with almost 200 all-purpose yards. Jackson had 111 yards on the ground (4.3 yards per carry) and six catches for 85 yards, most of them coming off screen and shovel passes which are very reminiscent of the Eagles offense.
"There are some things in the run game, gap responsibility that we have to be able to control. If we control our gaps, people are not going to be able to run the ball," Castillo said. "We improved. There are some things the guys improved. But we have to do a better job in the first half giving up points."
When it wasn't Jackson, it was quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick who kept the Eagles off-balance. The numbers weren't flashy, but efficient as he was 21-of-27 for 193 yards. He was sacked just once in the game, which is the fewest amount by the Eagles this season. Linebacker Jamar Chaney also notched his first interception of the season and also had a pass knockdown.
The Bills were able to move the ball through the air despite the loss of Donald Jones to an ankle injury. Naaman Roosevelt led the Bills wide receivers with five catches for 41 yards.
The Bills' spread offense kept the Eagles' base defense off the field for virtually all of the game. The Eagles utilized mostly nickel with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but also worked in some dime with Joselio Hanson as the dime cornerback and Chaney as the lone linebacker.
Castillo made adjustments to eliminate the screen game late. They were able to get off the field much better in the second half. The Bills were 5-of-7 on third downs in the first half, but just 1-of-7 in the second half.
The Eagles did have a fourth-and-1 that they had to stop late in the game, but a Juqua Parker neutral zone infraction allowed the Bills to run out the clock. Castillo didn't blame Parker saying that he was a "warrior" for battling through an ankle injury.
"One play doesn't lose a game. I have to do a better job in the first half," Castillo said. "Right now, we have no room for error. Guys are playing hard. They're practicing hard. We're getting better. We have to win games. There were some things I saw on the field where we have improved. We battled in the fourth quarter. Now, we're going to take it one game at a time."
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