NASHVILLE --One of the trademarks of Sean McDermot's tenure as the Eagles' defensive coordinator has been his willingness to take chances, to play aggressively and to think out of the box. Going against a Titans offense led by superstar running back Chris Johnson, the Eagles were all of the above -- and more.
The Eagles crowded the box with shifting players and gave quarterback Kerry Collins and the Titans a dizzying number of looks in Sunday's 37-19 loss. The defense set the tempo for the first half on Tennessee's first possession, forcing a Collins incomplete pass, stopping Johnson for no gain and limiting Collins to a 4-yard completion.
It was a sign of things to come.
For a half, anyway.
After a dominating opening two quarters, the Eagles defense broke down and allowed scoring drives of 74 yards (9 plays) and 80 yards (one play) in a turnaround fourth quarter that lost the game for the visiting team.
"We didn't stop them when we needed to, and we had our chances," said linebacker Ernie Sims. "It was right there for us, and we let it slilp away."
In that very impressive first half, the Eagles registered three quarterback sacks -- by Antonio Dixon, Quintin Mikell and Trent Cole -- and had two takeaways -- a Mikell interception and a Juqua Parker fumble recovery -- as the Eagles went into the locker room leading, 13-7.
The goal was to keep Johnson from bouncing outside, or from reversing his field, and to maintain good leverage and tackling technique. It worked in that first half, as Johnson gained 44 yards on 9 carries, with a long of 12 yards. Collins, meanwhile, was harried into a 6-of-14 performance for 62 yards.
But it all turned around after an offensive fumble gave Tennessee life at its 3-yard line in the third quarter, trailing 16-7. A pass-interference penalty against Ellis Hobbs provided some breathing room for Collins and he quickly went to work, tossing a pair of touchdown passes in the half to Britt -- one good for 80 yards when Britt got beyond Hobbs and then turned rookie safety Nate Allen around in deep coverage.
"I have to play the ball better," said Allen. "Too many mistakes. I need to adjust better and go get the football."
Tennessee gained 220 yards of offense in the second half, nearly all of them after the fumble that kept the game alive for Tennessee. It was a tale of two halves for the defense, which is still searching for 60 minutes of consistently good football on a game-by-game basis.
"Too many letdowns, too many errors and you can't do that and allow teams to hang around," said safety Quintin Mikell. "We have to put teams away. One good half of football isn't going to get it done."
-- Posted by Dave Spadaro, 5:57 p.m., October 24