It's on to the New Orleans Saints, Sunday's opponent at Lincoln Financial Field, for the 4-6 Eagles and at the coordinators' usual Tuesday press conference Michael Clay, Shane Steichen, and Jonathan Gannon discussed the state of their respective groups – looking back at the Week 10 win in Denver and the challenges the Saints present in the week ahead.
Michael Clay credits several players for key field goal block vs. Broncos
A blocked punt in Carolina. A blocked field goal in Denver. Strong performances from the kicking team all season. Special Teams Coordinator Michael Clay knows it's a team effort every time his unit takes the field, and Sunday was no different when K'Von Wallace blocked a 22-yard field goal in Denver that helped turn that game around. Wallace was the one who made the block, but he had some help from his friends, as Clay reviewed the play.
"It was a really good individual effort out of K'Von," Clay said. "On the first one, their first PAT, he kind of squeaked in there. And it was something that we had seen on tape that we talked about as a group on Friday saying, 'Hey, this may be an opportunity.' And the first one K'Von got through, didn't block it. He came off the sideline after and we went the other way the next time and he said, 'Hey, give me another opportunity. I think I can get it.' So, similar to Carolina, something we saw on tape, they came off, seeing we have an opportunity. And, you know, it was really hard, especially on such a short field goal to get – especially the second widest guy to get his hands on it, but he did a heck of a job. Same with Shaun Bradley, he attacked that outside arm on one of the guys.
"And to be completely honest, Derek Barnett has so many blocked field goals, they probably specialized on him. 'Hey, 96 is around here,' so he probably thought he may get through there. But it helped out and K'Von had a heck of an effort to one, clear his feet between the wing and the end right there and to get his hands up in such a quick manner to block it. We would have loved Alex (Singleton) to go back to his catching days from Little League baseball, but didn't get the scoop and score, but got the opportunity to get the points off it. So, just a great individual effort from K'Von. But it's a whole, Friday seeing something; Derek, Shaun, and Zech (McPhearson) rushing off the edge to give him that gap to get through."
New Orleans comes to town on Sunday and the Saints come with a reputation. "This is a home run-type of team that's always looking for a big play," New York Giants Head Coach Joe Judge said before the teams met on October 3. Clay is well aware of the Saints' prowess blocking kicks and on special teams in general.
"They do a great job. They rush hard. When I was in San Francisco, (49ers General Manager) John Lynch said a good defense is how you field goal block. And guys have an opportunity to go out there and – it's two seconds of free pain," Clay said. "It's tough for the field goal team – it's physically demanding as the field goal team. But they rush hard, they get under your pads, they get their hands up, they got some guys who have some length. And if you hit the low ball, they're going to get their hands on it. And (Saints Special Teams Coordinator) Darren Rizzi's done a fantastic job in New Orleans and he's been doing a great job since he's been in the NFL, getting those guys getting those hands up. Because it can alter the game, as you see some missed extra points. And now, you're thinking now it's not a field goal game, now it's an actual touchdown game. So, they've done a really good job of just kind of understanding how they can change the game with that."
Shane Steichen explains biggest growth in Jalen Hurts' game
Most of the questions for Shane Steichen involved quarterback Jalen Hurts, who is playing outstanding football and Steichen reiterated everything Head Coach Nick Sirianni has said about the second-year player. When asked what Hurts' biggest improvement through the course of the season has been, Steichen pointed to the mental part of the game.
"I think he's starting to see it really well, the checks he's starting to make. I think, again, that's the repetition of going over and over and starting to see it and feel comfortable," Steichen said. "We said it the other day, he's in his 14th start and I think that's just getting comfortable and seeing certain things defensively that he's seeing."
Steichen was pleased with the offensive performance throughout the win in Denver, but the first half – when the Eagles gained 270 yards, had 17 first downs, converted 5 of 8 third downs, and scored 20 points – was especially impressive.
"I think the whole offense, as a whole, played the best football we played in the first half," he said. "Everyone was on the same page. That's three weeks in a row we didn't have any penalties, too. You know, the self-inflicted wounds, not getting any of those. The offensive line played exceptionally well. Receivers blocked, tight ends blocked, backs ran it well, and Jalen played well."
Jonathan Gannon loves seeing 'stinger, edge' from defense
Playing physical football. Winning with will. Those are two of the things that Jonathan Gannon saw from a defense that on Sunday stifled Denver to the tune of one conversion in 13 opportunities on third and fourth downs, combined.
"I thought our entire unit really had a stinger, edge, whatever you want to call it," Gannon said. "I felt like we did a good job of outhitting them and we played hard. That was one of the challenges to our guys."
Along with the outstanding play on third and fourth downs, the Eagles limited Denver to just one touchdown in five red zone trips, which Gannon said was "all about the players. They executed at a high level." He liked the "attitude" the defense showed when Denver tried running the ball in the red zone.
Overall, it was a top performance from the defense, starting at the line of scrimmage and continuing with fine play from linebackers T.J. Edwards and Davion Taylor as their reps increase and from the cornerbacks along with a safety rotation that on Sunday included Rodney McLeod, Anthony Harris, and Marcus Epps.