While the headlines and water-cooler chatter continues to focus on Michael Vick and the offense, last night's 27-17 victory over the New York Giants was, without question, one for the defense. The Giants, boasting the league's second-ranked offense coming into the game, were held to a paltry 208 total yards on the nights, more than 200 fewer yards than their 409.8 average coming into the game.
"I would say yeah, (this was our best game of the season on defense)," said strong safety Quintin Mikell following the victory. "The biggest thing was really our front seven doing well against the run. We knew coming in that they're a balanced team and if they can run well and get out in the open, it's going to create havoc for us on the back end. I think our front seven did their thing, and then we had opportunities to make plays on the ball and when we did, for the most part, we made plays."
That's an astute assessment from one of the defensive leaders. A run defense that has been on fire since the insertion of Moise Fokou and Juqua Parker into the lineup, at strongside linebacker and defensive end respectively, heading into the Week 5 game against the San Francisco 49ers, helped also by the impressive play of defensive tackle Antonio Dixon, had perhaps its shining moment under the bright lights of Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday Night Football. Ahmad Bradshaw, tied for third in the league in rushing heading into the night, was held to an anemic 29 rushing yards on 12 carries. Bradshaw's previous low rushing total on the season 57 yards, and his 29 rushing yards were also the fewest the Eagles have allowed to a team-leader in rushes this season.
"It's just the attitude that we have against the run the past six weeks now," said Fokou. "It's been a great attitude. We're like sharks out there. We see some food and we're going to eat it. It's very high energy and we're really doing a great job with it."
The Eagles also bottled up Bradshaw in the passing game. Coming into Sunday night, one of the weaknesses of the Eagles defense had been covering running backs out of the backfield. According to Football Outsiders, the Eagles were last in the league in covering running backs as receivers. On Sunday night, Bradshaw had two catches for -5 yards.
And what of the opportunism? Well, five takeaways ought to get the job done.
"You have those type of games when everybody's emotional, ready to go, just so jittery and wanting to get stuff done," said rookie defensive end Brandon Graham, who, playing extended snaps after Juqua Parker left with a hip injury, created one of those five turnovers when he stripped Bradshaw in the second quarter. "We go over it in practice all the time, working on turnover drills, and that was my first time ever trying to go for it. I'm 1-for-1."
As for Eli Manning, the Eagles forced little brother Manning into his worst game of the season despite having their league-best 28-game sack streak come to an end. Manning threw for only 147 yards - 177 was his previous low on the year - and a 53.5 quarterback rating (77.3 was his previous 2010 low). The big number on Manning? Four turnovers - three interceptions and one costly lost fumble.
"He's the key to the offense just like (QB) Peyton Manning was the key to the Colts offense," said weakside linebacker Ernie Sims. "We knew if we could put pressure on him, we were going to cause a lot of turnovers."
Manning was picked off twice by Asante Samuel, who became the first player to intercept both Manning brothers twice in the same season. Samuel is now the league leader in interceptions with seven and the Eagles, as a defense, lead the NFL with 26 takeaways. Now, the matter at hand is to keep the momentum of this three-game winning streak rolling as the Eagles prepare for a clash of 7-3 teams in Chicago this Sunday. At the moment, the Eagles can make a case to be one of the best teams in the league, but there's a lot of work left to be done.
"Our expectations are high," said cornerback Dimitri Patterson, who has excelled since entering the starting lineup at right corner. "We're not thinking about the playoffs, we're thinking about the Super Bowl. That's how we approach every game, that's how we approach every practice, that's how we prepare ... We want to be in first place and we want to have home-field advantage in the playoffs. Our goal is to dominate each week. That's what we try to do, and we feel real good about it."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 11:54 a.m., November 22