No one wants to hear that there were positives amid a demoralizing 34-13 loss, but when the losing team goes from having a three-point lead to trailing by 21 in the span of four minutes and 23 seconds of game time, there's still a large part of the game that goes unrecognized. For the Eagles, the renaissance of a once-dominant pass rush was the silver lining on an otherwise dreary Thursday night.
The Eagles sacked Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton six times, twice their previous single-game high in sacks on the season. After leading the NFL in 2011 with 50 sacks, 46 of which came from the defensive line, the Eagles had been tied for 30th with only 22 sacks on the year coming into Thursday night's game. Then, in the second game since the transition from Jim Washburn's wide-nine to Tommy Brasher's more traditional read-and-react style of play, the Eagles defensive line busted out.
"I feel like guys are getting comfortable, I've seen it. The read and react deal, I felt comfortable myself this game, more comfortable," said defensive end Trent Cole, who had a sack and a fumble recovery on the night."I think it's helped a lot. Doing the reading and stuff, I think it's helped a lot."
Third year defensive end Brandon Graham led the way with a career high 2.5 sacks, followed by defensive tackle Fletcher Cox's 1.5 and solo sack each for Cole and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins.
"Everybody is doing what they do best," said Graham. "I'm not taking anything from Coach Wash, but things weren't opening up. But now, shoot, everything is opening up for some reason. It just keeps getting better. We have to get these wins. Hopefully, we can beat Robert Griffin III coming up then we go to the Giants and then take care of them and then get ready for next year."
For a defense that has struggled to force turnovers all season, the most important aspect of the pressure was that two of the sacks resulted in forced fumbles, both of which were recovered by the Eagles.
"Our D-line, we're proud of them the way they stepped up," said middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans. "We got (the Bengals) in third and long, made them have to pass the ball and those guys got after it. They did some good things. They were able to get the ball out most importantly. It was special to see and I was happy to see those guys back in rare form."
"I thought they did a good job," said head coach Andy Reid. "They obviously gave the quarterback enough pressure with the sacks, enough pressure that they were struggling to throw the ball for a while. I thought they played hard and aggressive. I didn't think the defense necessarily was the issue as much as the turnovers."
In the end, though, the resurgent defensive line remains nothing but a silver lining. For a team that has been fighting so hard in vain for victories, the bright side is still pretty dark.
"It doesn't mean too much," said Jenkins. "The last year or two, we put up a lot of stats and numbers and we were losing too. In the end, all the moral victories, whatever they are, don't mean anything if you don't get the win."
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