Philadelphia Eagles News

Post-Snap Read: Generating pressure leads to big day for defense

Defensive end Josh Sweat sacks quarterback Jared Goff
Defensive end Josh Sweat sacks quarterback Jared Goff

The Eagles came away from Detroit with a decisive 44-6 victory over the Lions, and the defensive performance was a big reason why. After watching the game and then going back through the film, my biggest takeaway was the pressure the Eagles created on quarterback Jared Goff and how that resulted in a bunch of negative plays. The Eagles not only did that with a four-man rush but also with the blitz. Did every blitz result in a sack or a negative play? No. But they ultimately helped the defense stifle drives and get off the field. Here are some of the blitzes and why they were so impactful.

In that clip, we see an example of everything I mean. One blitz helps lead to a sack. Another on second-and-long helps force a quick throw that leads to third-and-long. A third resulted in an incompletion on third down.

According to Pro Football Focus, the Eagles blitzed 42 times in Weeks 1 through 7 (29th in the league), which averages out to six blitzes a game. On Sunday, the Eagles blitzed 10 times. That's not a huge uptick, but it was enough of an adjustment to consistently affect Goff in this game.

Focusing further on the pressure, I want to talk about the performances of two individual defensive linemen, Josh Sweat and Milton Williams.

Sweat racked up two sacks in the first quarter against the Lions, a week after I highlighted him in my All-22 Review for some of his impressive rushes against the Raiders. I'm a big believer in NOT using sacks as a metric to judge defensive line play, because there are a lot of factors that play into whether or not a player actually comes up with a sack of the quarterback (and often times the player who got the sack wasn't the person who actually created the sack), and this is a great example. Sweat had a good day rushing the quarterback against the Raiders and Derek Carr, but had a goose egg in the box score. He followed that up with another similar performance against the Lions and got a lot of glory with his second career multi-sack performance. Sweat is consistently a steady force for the Eagles off the edge.

I thought this was Williams' most complete game of the season, and again not just because of his sack of Goff but because of his performance against both the run and the pass. The third-round pick played the most snaps (34) since Week 3 at Dallas, racking up a career-high in tackles along with that first career sack of Goff. We've seen flashes of Williams' improvement over the last month – with impressive rushes, reps of him controlling the point of attack, and his non-stop motor. It all came together on Sunday against Detroit.

Williams' sack in the second quarter gave the Eagles four in the first half, the first time they had done that in a road game in a decade. The team finished with six sacks total on the afternoon, with five different Eagles bringing Goff to the ground. It was the first time at least five Eagles recorded at least one sack in a game since 2010.

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