On Sunday, the Eagles went out and beat a good team. It wasn't a blowout win where everything went right, like in the Atlanta game. The game against the Colts felt like a playoff contest. It was tough and intense. It wasn't pretty for either team. Big players made big plays. No side could put the other team away. This was a game that you just knew would be decided late in the fourth quarter. This was the kind of win we needed to see from this group of young Eagles.
Going up against a great quarterback like Peyton Manning is a huge challenge. I was thrilled that the defense responded so strongly. Sean McDermott came up with a strong plan. He also made some adjustments during the game. The players did a good job of executing the gameplan.
The first thing McDermott wanted to do was pressure Manning. McDermott knew that had to get creative. The plan involved a variety of alignments and blitzes. We used the standard 4-3 base at times. We had Moise Fokou line up on the line of scrimmage as a rush linebacker at times. That helped to get us into what is called the Bear Front. This is Buddy Ryan's old move to get defensive linemen over the guard-center-guard area so that all three defenders have to be single blocked. Trevor Laws and Brandon Graham were especially effective in this look. McDermott had us go with a three-man line at times. Darryl Tapp would line up as the Joker and move around. He had a very active day. Tapp played both end spots, defensive tackle and the Joker (rush linebacker role).
McDermott unleashed all kinds of blitzes. He did some zone blitzing. He also got very creative with other looks and had the defensive ends shift to the middle so they were inside linebackers on a couple of plays. They then rushed up the middle. At times linebackers would just blitz, either off the edge or up the middle.
Manning is smart enough to recognize a lot of this so the blitzes weren't catching him or the Colts off-guard the way they would others. Still, they were effective because our guys did a good job of fighting through blocks. Manning was sacked three times. He had only been sacked seven times all year so Manning wasn't used to this kind of situation. We got a lot of pressure right up the middle, which made him very uncomfortable. There were a number of throws where Manning was forced to turn his body to avoid contact. That led to some errant passes. Never did three sacks look so good.
The defensive line got pressure at times when the Eagles only rushed four. Trent Cole had one sack, but made contact with Manning on a handful of plays. Graham was especially effective with a bull rush from the left side. That's when he drives the blocker straight back. Laws was really good up the middle. Tapp had a sack as well.
One thing that helped the blitzes and general pass rush to be effective was tight coverage. Asante Samuel played his best game as an Eagle. He was great. You see a performance like this and appreciate just how talented he is. Manning looked to Samuel's side a handful of times, but had no one to throw to. There were several plays where Samuel ran the route as well as Pierre Garcon. Samuel picked off a pair of passes and was in position for a couple more, but the throws were too far off-target. Dimitri Patterson got the first start of his NFL career and played really well. He gave up a few short completions to Reggie Wayne, but always tackled him quickly. Patterson broke up a pass and had seven tackles. There was a telling move late in the game. The Colts were so frustrated with the lack of good touches for Wayne that they moved him to the slot. That's the ultimate compliment for Patterson.
Manning had to play small ball because our safeties did such a good job of not letting players get open deep. Quintin Mikell, Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman kept things in front of them. The Colts only had three pass plays of more than 20 yards. Two of them were short throws where the receiver ran for most of the yards. That's outstanding safety play. It is world's different from the Tennessee letdown. Coleman replaced Allen when he left the game in the first half, but I didn't see any major mistakes from Coleman at all.
Stewart Bradley and the linebackers also were important to the win. Bradley was very good against the pass. He covered well. He broke up a couple of passes. He also flew around to help tackle receivers. The Colts threw a lot of short passes, but we limited their yards after the catch. Moise Fokou played a lot in the first half, but was quiet. Ernie Sims got the bulk of snaps in the second half and played well. He had six tackles including a tackles-for-loss and a sack.
It seems funny to be excited about the defense in a game where they gave up 24 points. That is a sign of respect for Manning and how good he is. Sacking him three times and picking him off twice just doesn't happen all that often, not to mention winning the game. The defense really came to play this week.
-- Posted by Tommy Lawlor 3:30 p.m., November 10