Michael Clay, Brian Johnson, and Matt Patricia met the media on Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex and, as the team prepares for the regular-season finale at the New York Giants, what is happening in their respective phases of the team.
Michael Clay: Special teams preparing for everything – including possible bad weather
The special teams continue their strong season and now they're preparing for potentially snow and nasty weather at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. The team has faced plenty of rain and some driving winds this year, and Clay spent some time on Tuesday watching film of the 2013 Lions-Eagles Snow Bowl at Lincoln Financial Field – just to get in that mindset.
As for the special teams on Sunday against Arizona, Clay was largely pleased.
"From when our number was called, I thought they did a pretty good job in terms of – punt coverage was good flipping the field," Clay said. "(Punter) Braden (Mann) has been doing a really good job of that. Our coverage has been doing a pretty good job. (Safety) Sydney (Brown) and (cornerback) Josh (Jobe) do a good job of commanding double teams (as gunners in punt coverage) and allowing some guys on the interior to make some plays. You saw (cornerback Eli) Ricks had another big tackle for us and that first one and then (linebacker) Patrick Johnson did a really good job on the second one. You know, kind of flipping the field from our 32 to their 22.
"I thought they did a good job, but I thought the coolest play was Eli Ricks and (linebacker) Ben (VanSumeren) (on a late-game onside kick by Arizona). And kind of communicating, seeing something was a little bit different from Arizona's kickoff team, and just communicating, 'Hey, there's something happening right here,' and you saw Eli was aggressive and charged the ball on the surprise onside kick. And you know, like I've kind of said all year, we're just trying to do anything to help this team in any capacity we can. When our number's called, we're just going out there to do it at the best of our abilities."
Ricks and VanSumeren, both undrafted rookie free agents, recalled what Clay taught early in the offseason program.
"I think it's one of our things we present to them in Rookie Minicamp for our kickoff return unit, you know, we've got these set rules that will never be changed and I thought they did a good job of staying true themselves," Clay said.
Matt Patricia: Sunday's performance 'falls on me'
Senior Defensive Assistant Matt Patricia opened his press conference with a statement, saying "obviously not good enough performance this past weekend, that falls on me. I've got to do a better job of getting our guys in positions to help us win, that's first and foremost."
And then for the remainder of his time with the media he answered questions about stopping the run, crediting the Cardinals for their offensive scheme and taking responsibility for the defensive performance in the defeat. Patricia also addressed the tackling in the game against Arizona, saying it wasn't as consistent as he needs it to be.
"I think our thing with the tackling this weekend wasn't up to what we want it to be, and I've got to make sure that we re-emphasize and do a good job for me when I schedule, and the individual periods in practice and make sure we are focusing on the fundamentals of tackling, because you can still focus on it without necessarily having to have the physical side of it because we are trying to take care of their bodies," Patricia said. "We are late in the year. Two weeks ago against the Giants, we tackled extremely well in that game, and that's something that I've got to make sure we keep the focus on each week of going and making sure that our approach angles are good and that our hips and ankles and knees are bent in the right direction; that we are leveraging the ball properly and we are not getting out of alignment from that standpoint; and our pad level is in the right place; and our eyes are in the right place when you tackle; and we are wrapping appropriately and driving through. Those are certainly things that you can walk through.
"And I think with the change, this probably goes back to we kind of changed practice in the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) and the rest of it, some of the stuff that's out there product-wise that we have that we use, the tackling donuts, things like that, where it's not always body on body contact but we are still working those fundamentals and you can do them in walkthrough paces, those really help. I've got to make sure that we do that every week."
Brian Johnson: Explaining a late-game sequence that led to 3 points
Philadelphia had the football with five-plus minutes to go in Sunday's game against Arizona and the thought was, "Let's go score a touchdown." The offense had a first-and-10 play at the Cardinals' 20-yard line and then the drive went sideways when a holding call backed the Eagles up 10 yards and put them at first-and-20 from the 30-yard line.
Offensive Coordinator Brian Johnson explained on Tuesday the thought process from that point on.
"When you get in those type of four-minute situations, there are three different things that you're managing at that point. I think the first is obviously down and distance. You're managing the clock," Johnson said. "Obviously, you don't want to try to give them the ball back and then you're managing the kick line. All three of those things really come into play.
"So, the first down, we get 4 (yards on a quarterback Jalen Hurts run). Second-and-16, (Cardinals safety) Budda (Baker) makes a fantastic play (on Hurts running the football). It was a play that had a chance to be really, really big and be a big hit. Credit to Budda Baker. He made a fantastic play on that particular play. Then what ends up happening is you lose 4 yards and so you're third-and-20. The priorities of what you're trying to manage really change each play throughout that sequence.
"So now you get yourself into a third-and-20, and you want to put yourself in a position to score points, because that's not obviously an area on the field where you're going to punt the ball and with the way the wind was in that stadium on that side, like we had to get to the kick line.
"That was the third-and-20. Obviously had multiple options on that play call. If you get a pressure look, that's what we are going to, and if we didn't get a pressure look, then the play would have been something else. The guys executed what we tried to do. Unfortunately, just weren't able to get it done."
Johnson also talked about getting the ball to wide receiver A.J. Brown, who had one catch and one target in the second half of the game.
"We didn't run a whole bunch of plays," Johnson said. "He had one catch in the second half. I don't remember exactly every single pass that we ran in the second half, but A.J. is a great player and we've got to force him the ball sometimes and make sure we get him going."