When Nolan Carroll went down with a broken ankle in the second quarter of Thursday's game, the next man up for the Eagles' secondary was rookie Eric Rowe.
While the Eagles' coaching staff has been using Rowe sparingly this season as he adapts to the league, Rowe was baptized by fire on Thursday, often being forced to cover Calvin Johnson in front of a national TV audience.
After hanging with Johnson very well on a pair of passes, Rowe couldn't contain Johnson on a 25-yard score right before the end of the first half. Johnson would ultimately get the best of Rowe, as well as other members of the Eagles' defense, piling up eight catches for 93 yards and tying a career best with three touchdown receptions.
"He's one of the best in the game, so it's extremely tough, but it's the NFL," Rowe said. "Everybody's good. I don't take anyone for granted, but yeah it was tough because he's one of the best in the game right now. I definitely had a good learning experience.
"The coaches have confidence and have faith in me to cover Calvin, so I just tried to take that in and do my job. … We did run a lot of man pressure and zone pressure, so I just know that one-on-one, I've got to do my job."
On Johnson's second touchdown grab of the day, Matthew Stafford threw a perfectly placed back-shoulder throw to Johnson from 4 yards out, and Johnson made the adjustment to pluck the ball out of the air at the last moment. Rowe's coverage was tight, but the throw was virtually indefensible.
"That was just a great pass and great catch," Rowe said. "(My teammates) were just all telling me to keep competing. If you didn't compete, then you didn't do your job, but they saw me competing and they just told me to keep my head up and keep working."
Carroll was placed on the Injured Reserve list on Friday. That means that Rowe, the Eagles' second-round pick from this past draft, will now see extended time at outside corner.
"Our biggest motto here is next man up," Rowe said. "When he went down, I can't go in there and not know my stuff. I expect more playing time because now we're kind of low on DBs, so now I just have to step up and help the defense now."
Going back to the draft process, Rowe's versatility is what drew the Eagles' attention to begin with. At the University of Utah, he was a three-year starter at safety before moving to corner for his senior season. With that versatility in mind, the Eagles have trained Rowe at outside corner, safety and inside at nickel. As the season's progressed, Rowe has seen most of his playing time in the dime package, but the rookie says he's ready for the challenge of playing outside opposite of Byron Maxwell.
"I'm extremely comfortable," Rowe said. "As the year's gone on, I've learned the defense a lot better. It's a lot different to study on paper then to get out there for reps, so through the year I've gotten better with the defense. I've learned more tools and I know when to use them now, so I'm extremely comfortable out there."