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Defense Turns In Dominant Performance


While much of the attention surrounding the Eagles' early-season success has been directed toward rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, the other side of the ball is just as deserving of praise.

The Eagles' defense was back at it again on Sunday against the Steelers in the dominating 34-3 win, as it completely eliminated Pittsburgh's run game and consistently pressured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throughout the course of the afternoon.

By the completion of the Battle of Pennsylvania, the Steelers had managed only 29 yards on the ground, had turned over the ball twice and were completely ineffective in the red zone, going 0 for 2. Entering Sunday's matchup, running back DeAngelo Williams was the league's leading rusher and the Steelers were perfect in the red zone.

"We knew this was going to be a tough game against a quality opponent," safety Malcolm Jenkins said following the impressive performance. "The Pittsburgh Steelers are a physical team. They know how to win. They've got a great quarterback, great offense, solid defense that gets after you. So, we knew we were going to have to show up and this was going to be a test of where we are right now. I think guys answered."

Early on in the matchup, the game was certainly a back-and-forth struggle, but by the third quarter, the Eagles began to run away with it. What may have been the biggest turning point defensively came right around that time, when the Birds shut down Pittsburgh's offense on a fourth-and-5 at the Philadelphia 33-yard line.

After the Eagles were called for a running into the kicker penalty, the Steelers elected to take a chance. Trailing 20-3 at that point, they needed points and decided to go for it.

Roethlisberger threw to wide receiver Antonio Brown, but Jenkins was there to make the stop. He almost came away with an interception, but the turnover on downs was enough to really swing the game in complete favor of Philadelphia.

"It was huge. Fourth-and-5 in the plus territory, that's a big gamble, one that if they convert that they're probably at least getting a field goal," Jenkins said. "But, from a momentum standpoint to stop them right there and they come up with no points was big. So, if they're going to gamble, we've got to make sure we make them pay for it."

Through the opening three games, it's clear the Eagles' defense is very much a force to be reckoned with. After Sunday's victory, the team ranked first in the NFL in points allowed per game (9), fourth in yards allowed per game (274.3), second in rushing yards allowed per game (71) and tied for third in sacks (10).

Coming off wins over Cleveland and Chicago, many fans and analysts downplayed the defensive showings. Pittsburgh was going to be the real test.

Not anymore.

"We all knew what type of game it was. We all knew what everybody was saying, that we played two average teams and the Steelers were better than those first two teams that we played," cornerback Nolan Carroll said. "Nobody really gave us a chance, but we were the only ones that gave ourselves a chance. We knew we had the ability to win. We just had to put it all together for four quarters."

It's clear the Eagles' defense is finding its stride early on in 2016. All parts of the unit are contributing. Moving forward, the team is going to keep rolling, do its best to correct mistakes and continue to get better.

"Everybody contributes and everybody has a hand in this win and every win," linebacker Jordan Hicks said. "It does a lot when you have that type of depth. Guys get a rest here. Guys feel better going into big-time situations. We're constantly rotating, constantly learning and like I said, we've got things to improve, but everybody had a hand in this win."

The Battle of Pennsylvania was won by the Eagles who improved their record to 3-0 heading into the bye week.

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