Twenty-four. Thirty-five. Twenty-nine.
Over the past three games, the defense surrendered nearly an average of 30 points per contest against the Seahawks, Rams, and Giants. Sunday's early struggles may have been the tipping point as the team gave up a season-high 23 first-half points and over 500 total yards at MetLife Stadium. The defense got in gear in the second half and allowed just one score over the final 30 minutes of play.
Why has the defense struggled at the onset of games?
"Letting them in the end zone," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz simply put. "Every one's different. We've had some where we've given up big plays. We've had some where they've methodically driven down the field. One thing that has hurt is particularly in this last game – penalties and third downs. The first three series of the game I think we started 0-for-6 on third down. You talk about a good formula for giving up points, there's one right there."
The Eagles gave up three straight touchdowns to start and dug themselves into a 20-7 hole midway through the second quarter. Cornerback Ronald Darby amassed a few penalties in the game but came away with a huge interception in that second quarter that sparked the defensive turnaround.
"It shouldn't take giving up three straight touchdowns to get that urgency," Schwartz said. "We have to get back to playing clean football. Not giving stuff to people for free."
Prior to the recent three-game stretch, Philadelphia's defense was tops in fewest points allowed in the opening quarter. Returning to Lincoln Financial Field this Sunday could aid the recent woes as the defense has been dominant at home. Schwartz stated during his press conference that winning close games, regardless of how they're won, is beneficial for the team in the long term.
"I think when you have success as a team, sometimes you, I don't want to say take it for granted, but you become accustomed to winning. You become accustomed to games not being close," he said.
"When it's all said and done, maybe these last couple weeks - I know a coach a long time ago who went straight along and lost the Super Bowl game. He said afterward that he regretted not being in more close games over the course of the season because things were rolling up, and then when it came time for it to be a close game, they really didn't have experience in that game.
"I think that we don't want to play close games, but there is experience to doing that. The bottom line is coming out with the win. I'm proud of the guys for coming out with the win. I'm proud of them for getting the stop on the last drive. I'm proud of them for getting the ball back against the Rams and giving us a chance, and things like that. Every game you're not going to play your best. That's just life in the NFL. But part of it is becoming battle-tested and having some awareness that there is that urgency every single week.
"Now, when you're 12-2, we're on a week-by-week basis, and never really even pay attention to that, but say you're 7-5 right now. Guess what? There's already that urgency, and you're in the moment maybe a little bit. There's some lessons to be learned from it. Some of our younger guys here or there, maybe some guys that haven't been in a position like this before. I think the bottom line is somehow we were able to come out with a win."
The Eagles finally return home to face Oakland. Here are the key Raiders to watch.