At his press conference last Friday, head coach Andy Reid used an interesting phrase on how his defense needed to play against Falcons running back Michael Turner.
Reid said the Eagles had to "tackle accurately," meaning if the defenders didn't pick a spot and make sure they hit it, they would more likely than not get run over by Atlanta's tough runner.
After the Eagles held Turner, who came into the game as the NFL's third-leading rusher, to just 58 yards on 17 carries, defensive coordinator Jim Johnson's scheme was played almost to perfection in a 27-14 win Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
"Jim had a great plan coming in," linebacker Chris Gocong said. "We played a lot of eight-man box, seven-man box and that helped out. I think just the extra work during the week, the bye week, stuff like that. We were rested and we really knew how we were going to play going into this game. We executed." ATL vs. PHI 10-26-08
Linebacker Omar Gaither credited defensive tackles Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley with helping to stuff the run up the middle.
"They wanted to run the ball, no doubt about it," Gaither said. "But we got hats around the ball. Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley did a great job in the middle and it showed as far as the stats were concerned."
Patterson, though, was quick to point out how well the linebackers played.
"I think the linebackers did a real good job playing off of us," Patterson said. "We didn't really get to hit him as much as we thought we could. Their offensive line did good staying on us, but we just felt like we could control (that) and not get pushed back."
For defensive end Trent Cole, containment was the key.
"I think the guys played well keeping gap control, keeping him contained and keeping him from getting loose," Cole said. "He might of broke us here and there, but we kept him from breaking loose, taking it real far downfield. I think we did a good job of containing him."
Even Falcons rookie quarterback Matt Ryan was impressed with the Eagles' run defense.
"They brought some pressure packages and did a good job of making some plays," Ryan said. "They've got a good defense; they've got a good scheme. Jim Johnson does a great job of getting those guys on the same page and they executed it well today, so credit to their defense."
For the past four years, Turner had been toiling in San Diego behind LaDainian Tomlinson before the Falcons signed him as a free agent in the offseason. Turner, who had started just one game while with the Chargers, has been Atlanta's main threat out of the backfield this season.
"He's a hard runner," Patterson said. "You just can't hit him. He's been running through guys, trying to throw his arm in there, stuff like that."
Turner averaged 4.7 yards per carry heading into the game with the Eagles. He was held to 3.4 yards per rush on Sunday.
"Obviously, he's their workhorse," Gaither said. "He's what gets that offense going. The better day he has, the better day Matt Ryan has. He was the key. I think they ended up with about 70 yards rushing, which is around where we wanted it to be."
Gaither was close. The Falcons gained a total of 77 yards against the Eagles. That's mostly because they heeded Johnson's advice about making sure tackles against a hard runner like Turner.
"I think we did a pretty good job," Johnson said. "I think outside of that one pass where he scrambled and the guy broke a couple tackles. I think we did a pretty good job tackling. We had a lot people around the football and we tackled well."