As good as the Eagles defense was on Sunday, their performance would have been rendered moot if the Ravens scored in the final 1:55 to send the 69,144 fans in attendance at Lincoln Financial Field home disappointed.
However, the Ravens didn't score. And for the second straight week, the Eagles defense locked down the opposition with the game on the line, this time to the tune of a 24-23 win over the Baltimore Ravens.
"We want to be great. We have to be able to have these types of wins. We need to be put in this position and when the offense needs us to seal the deal, we have to be able to do it," safety Kurt Coleman said. "Last year, we weren't getting it done like that. This year, our attitude is different. I told the whole defense, it was my fault for the first half. I wasn't amped up enough. I had to turn it up and these guys played lights out. Front four, linebackers played lights out the whole game."
After Michael Vick scored on a 1-yard keeper to put the Eagles ahead, the Ravens started from their own 20-yard line. Quarterback Joe Flacco targeted rookie cornerback Brandon Boykin on both first and second downs. The first down pass attempt to wide receiver Anquan Boldin was incomplete as was the second down deep ball to Jacoby Jones. On third down, the Eagles allowed tight end Dennis Pitta to gain 12 yards on a short pass. It was one of the few kinks on third downs for the Eagles, who held the Ravens to 4-of-14 (29 percent) in third down conversions.
With a fresh set of downs, Flacco attempted a pass along the sideline for wide receiver Tandon Doss that was incomplete, but cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha was called for illegal contact. From the Ravens' 37-yard line, Flacco threw an incomplete pass to tight end Ed Dickson, a 9-yard gain to tight end Dennis Pitta and an incomplete pass to Pitta. On fourth-and-1, Flacco's pass intended for running back Ray Rice fell to the ground sealing the win for the Eagles.
"It just says we're serious; we're going to fight," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "We still have a long way to go. We have a lot of improving that we need to do, but we're not going to stop fighting. We might make some mistakes, but you better look out. We're still bringing it."
The Eagles defense had to provide a lifeline for the team once again as the offense committed four turnovers. Last week, the Eagles were able to overcome five offensive turnovers in their win over Cleveland. The defense rectified the first turnover early as defensive end Trent Cole recorded his first sack of the season and in the process he stripped the ball from Flacco. Jenkins recovered at the Ravens' 15-yard line. Running back LeSean McCoy scored on a 1-yard run to put the Eagles ahead 7-0.
The Ravens have an explosive element to their offense in wide receiver Torrey Smith, who presents a lot of deep speed. To combat that, the Eagles had cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie shadow Smith and Asomugha was on the veteran Boldin. However, the Eagles showed a lot of faith in Boykin, who battled Boldin when he played in the slot.
"We kind of decided, we were talking about it during the week that I would go with Boldin because he's a little shiftier and he has more of the RAC and (Smith) is more so a straight-line guy," Asomugha said. "So we talked about it and then Dominique was fine with it, so we went ahead and did that, he would go with 82 and I would go with Boldin. But when Boldin would go inside, I would go outside so that we could keep Boykin at the nickel, since that's what he knows."
The Eagles' relentless pass rush helped minimize the impact the Ravens' receivers had. Instead, Flacco focused on the tight ends and running backs. Pitta, Rice and Dickson combined for 29 targets with Pitta leading the way with eight catches for 65 yards. Smith and Boldin, in fact, had just four catches for 58 yards combined.
"I think we tend to play with pressure; just go at them and try to (rattle) them and make them make the quick decision and get in his face," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "I think our D-line, even though we didn't get as many sacks as we would like, it still made him throw the ball a lot faster and it's hard for a receiver to come out of his break when that ball is right on you."
Last week, the performance of the Eagles defense was couched by the fact that it was against a Browns team that featured a rookie quarterback and running back. They've followed that up with another stellar outing against a team that put up 44 points on Monday night and is among the favorites to come out of the AFC.
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