The Eagles defense was convinced that it was only a matter of time before their counterparts on the Eagles offense would put points on the board. In the meantime, they had a job to do in putting the brakes on a Jaguars offense that was 32nd in the league in 2013. After surrendering 17 points early in the first half, the Eagles defense did just that, shutting out the visitors for the remainder of the game.
The key to the defense's strong play on the afternoon, according to those in the locker room, was patience and a continued trust in each other and the system. At halftime, linebacker DeMeco Ryans and safety Malcolm Jenkins both addressed the defensive unit.
"Me and DeMeco, we're level-headed, were very, very positive and we just never doubted at any point in time that we would win the game," Jenkins said after the game. "We knew that we were still in striking range and all we had to do was slowly but surely just play our game. There's so much opportunity left with a whole half of football. DeMeco's played enough ball, I've played enough ball to know that we're never out of it, especially with our offense and how fast they can go … The biggest thing is I told everybody, 'If you've never been tested, you can't be trusted.' I think this was a great test for us today and we passed it.
"It wasn't really just me and DeMeco, it was everybody from a leadership standpoint, Connor Barwin, Mychal Kendricks, they all had a positive vibe. That's good, because when the rest of the leadership is having fun, even though you're down 17-0, at no point in time did we have bad body language on the sideline. We were still smiling, laughing, because we're having fun, playing fast. That radiates throughout the team and when they see that, they believe that we can still come back."
One of the keys to the defense's success on the day came on third downs, where the Eagles allowed the opposition to convert over 40 percent of the time in 2013, which ranked 24th in the league. On Sunday, the Jaguars converted only two of their 14 third downs into first downs.
"We got them in a lot of 3rd and longs," said linebacker Connor Barwin. "Their offensive line isn't the strong point of their team. We didn't get a bunch of sacks but we had (Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne) moving around. They didn't actually go to a drop back pass game until the fourth quarter. Because the whole first half was all bootlegs and all sprint outs because of their offensive line. They knew they couldn't drop back and protect against us."
"It got much better," defensive coordinator Bill Davis said of the third-down performance. "We put an emphasis on it and usually, what we focus on, we get better at. The guys did a great job of pressuring the quarterback, covering, playing together and adjusting to the different things they were giving us. It's early in the season, so teams give you new looks. I thought our guys did a great job of applying our rules and our tools."
Still, though, this was no perfect performance. Undrafted Jaguars rookie wide receiver Allen Hurns scored two early touchdowns, on which cornerback Cary Williams admitted some culpability.
"It was a great win for us to have and it actually opened our eyes," Williams said. "Mine in particular, I didn't play my best football. In the first quarter, I let my teammates down, let the fans down, it was out of character. It came down to the golden rule of me not doing what I am supposed to do. I didn't handle my responsibility, I was trying to do too much and it came back and bit the team. I know what I have to do next time and be better for my teammates. It was a great win, it was a great job of us stopping those guys in the second quarter and not giving them too much."
Meanwhile, Ryans' level-headedness at halftime extended to the post-game locker room, where he downplayed any special significance to the victory.
"It's a game, it's the first one, and we're 1-0," Ryans said. "There's going to be some adversity that sets in at some point at every game that we play this season. This doesn't give us a vote of confidence, because we know how our team plays and we just have to go out there and play our style of ball."
The final exclamation point for the Eagles defense came late in the fourth quarter after a Cody Parkey field goal gave the Eagles a 27-17 lead with less than two minutes remaining. On the second play of the ensuing Jaguars drive, Trent Cole sacked Henne and forced the ball loose. Fletcher Cox would scoop up the fumble and rumble into the end zone for a touchdown, the first of his career, as ill-advised as the play may have been.
"To be honest, I should have fallen to the ground," Cox said with a smile while looking over to the touchdown ball itself as it sat in his locker. "But it's a once in a lifetime opportunity for a lineman to get a football and have open field."
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