Four quarters. That was the mantra the Eagles defense kept repeating over and over Sunday. After several late-game letdowns this season, the defense focused on maintaining their aggression through to the final play - and that's exactly what it took Sunday to beat Peyton Manning and the Colts by a scant 2-point margin.
The Eagles held Indianapolis to a mere seven points in the second half - the fewest points scored by the Colts in the second half of a game this season - and Manning to a pedestrian 64.5 quarterback rating. But the Colts still had a chance when they got the ball at their 26-yard line down two points with 40 seconds remaining in the game. Four plays later, Asante Samuel intercepted Manning for the second time on the day - the only time this season Manning has thrown two picks - to close out a hard-fought win for the Eagles.
"It was a big win," said safety Quintin Mikell, one of the leaders on defense. "The fourth quarter has kind of been our Achilles heel this year and all week we were preaching playing four quarters of football. We didn't want to let up; stay on them. We knew we had a big challenge. We knew no matter what the situation was after three quarters, the fourth quarter was going to be important to us because they have Peyton Manning over there. I am really proud of our defense. I'm really proud of our whole team and how we played together. We didn't let up and we finished the game. That was big."
Going up against arguably the best quarterback of this generation and a guy who had killed the Eagles in three previous meetings, the Eagles were able to produce consistent pressure. Prior to Sunday, the Eagles had sacked Manning once in three games when Mike Mamula brought him down in 1999. Today, they sacked the perennial Pro Bowler three times.
In the secondary, the Eagles kept Manning and the Colts passing game at bay despite missing half of the first-team unit. Dimitri Patterson played right cornerback in place of the injured Ellis Hobbs and turned in a solid performance. Patterson was lined up against Reggie Wayne most of the evening, and while Wayne was targeted 16 times, he was held to 83 yards on 11 receptions for a slim 7.5 yards per catch average.
"We didn't want to beat ourselves," Patterson said. "We knew what we were getting into. We were going to make some plays. We knew they were going to make some plays. We wanted to make sure we didn't give the game away. Bottom line: We didn't want to beat ourselves. We didn't want to give up any unnecessary big plays or any big drives. We just knew we needed to be thorough and disciplined in what we do."
Starting free safety Nate Allen left the game in the first half with a neck strain, leaving the job to seventh-round rookie Kurt Coleman, who earned plaudits from Mikell. Even rookie linebacker Keenan Clayton, in his first NFL game, got in on the action in some sub packages. All in all, it was a true team effort.
"There are a lot of new faces and we just keep working hard. When you come to work and you work hard, good things are going to happen," said defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. "To see them come together after the bye week, they just keep battling and that's what you need to do. That's our team. A couple of plays didn't go the way we would've liked, some it was out of our control, but we came back and hung in there. There was mental toughness on our part that stayed there until the end."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 10:40 p.m., November 7