DETROIT –** Sunday's defensive effort was A Tale of Two Halves for the Eagles in a 24-23 loss to Detroit. The Eagles were unable to get off the field, literally, in the first half. They dominated the Lions in the second half.
So which is the real Eagles defense?
"No doubt it's the second half," linebacker Nigel Bradham said. "In the first half, we just made too many mistakes. We came out and played our brand of football in the second half."
Ultimately, it wasn't enough.
And despite the uneven play, the defense had a chance to get a stop late in the game and maybe preserve the game. On a third-and-4 play from the Philadelphia 39-yard line, the Eagles pressured quarterback Matthew Stafford, but he was able to get rid of the ball and put it in the hands of wide receiver Golden Tate for a 27-yard gain and, with a 6-yard unnecessary roughness penalty against safety Malcolm Jenkins added in, the Lions had a first down at the Philadelphia 6-yard line.
Four plays later, Matt Prater kicked a 29-yard field goal for the winning points with 1:28 left in the game.
"They came out and they executed against us," defensive end Connor Barwin said. "They spread us out and they made plays. We made a few adjustments and got back into the game. We need to play that way for an entire 60 minutes."
All of those league-leading numbers for the defense after three games? They took a beating right from the start of Sunday's game at Ford Field as Jim Schwartz's group had its hands full against a red-hot Detroit offensive attack.
The Eagles led the NFL in points allowed heading into the game (6.7 points per game, not counting the punt return touchdown in Chicago), had not permitted a touchdown pass since the final game of the 2015 season and played an NFL-low 52.7 snaps per game on defense.
It took Detroit one drive – 11 plays, 75 yards – to put the Eagles on their defensive heels. Two more drives in the first half resulted in touchdown drives of 80 yards and 75 yards, and the Eagles went into the locker room at halftime having allowed a season-high 21 points and a whopping 199 total net yards, converting 2-of-3 third downs, 77 rushing yards and giving a creative Detroit scheme room to breathe.
The Lions came out spreading the field and forcing the Eagles into coverage in space. Stafford was 11-of-15 with three touchdown passes in the first half as he got the ball out of his hands quickly or rolled out of the pocket to avoid pressure.
In short, the Eagles just didn't dial up the right calls and execute Schwartz's defense when they needed to in those first three possessions. Schwartz rotated his linebackers, using combinations of Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham and then Stephen Tulloch and Mychal Kendricks in mostly nickel personnel packages throughout the game. And when they were in the right spot, like when a gaggle of defenders sacked Stafford in Philadelphia territory (26-yard line) in the second quarter, defensive tackle Bennie Logan ripped Stafford's helmet off his head (although Fletcher Cox received the penalty), keeping a drive alive that ended with a Stafford touchdown pass to Marvin Jones that gave Detroit a 21-7 advantage.
The Eagles registered four quarterback sacks and limited Detroit to 80 rushing yards and 244 total net yards. The Lions converted only one third down in the second half, the late-game completion to Tate, but it was enough for the win.
"Disappointing, but we will bounce back," Jenkins said. "We have to be ready to go from the opening whistle. They got us at the start today."