The day after the day after, the players reported to the NovaCare Complex and had conditioning work and meetings. Business as usual. With the 5-1 Buffalo Bills next on Sunday, the Eagles know what’s at stake.
“It’s really the same process as every week,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “This sucks for that whole night, the next morning, the next day, but when we show up for work on Tuesday, we watch the tape, we digest it, and we always finish with a preview of the next opponent. When you do that, you recognize you don’t have time to sit and mope. In the grand scheme and big picture of things, you always have to put it in perspective.
“While nobody wants to be 3-4, we are far from done playing. It hurts, and while the fan base is going crazy and all of the media and all these different things are happening, we can’t let that deter us from the here and now addressing the issues we need to fix and the work we need to put it. It’s not going to turn around unless we do those things.”
The Eagles have Buffalo next, and that’s all that matters. So, let’s discuss The Ways to Beat Buffalo …
1. Buffalo averages 135.8 yards rushing per game, and it’s not all from running backs Frank Gore (338 yards) and Devin Singletary (153 yards). Quarterback Josh Allen runs the ball. A lot. He runs to keep plays alive, he runs when he doesn’t like what he sees downfield, and he runs on designed plays. Allen is second on the team with 180 rushing yards and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is aware of the complexity of Buffalo’s ground attack.
“He is running like a big man and running like a fullback, a lot of stuff that (Carolina quarterback) Cam Newton would do,” Schwartz said at his Tuesday press conference. “They have all the RPOs. They have probably a more – complex really isn't the best word I am looking for, but varied run game than any team we've faced. Some teams sort of take the approach of keep it simple and we only do a couple things. These guys do an awful lot. They have powers, they have counters, they have stutters, they have zone runs, they have RPOs, they have jet sweeps, they have quarterback runs, and he's a big part of those.
“And then you add into the equation his ability to extend plays and to run for first downs. I think that we have to be at our very best. It's not just going to be covering guys. We have to play well in the run game, and then we also have to be good in our pass rush game to keep him from escaping or having step-up lanes and have guys in position to keep him from moving the chains.”
2. Keep wide receiver John Brown from winning deep. Brown is fast, super fast. He’s got 33 receptions for 473 yards (14.3 yards per catch) and two touchdowns. The Eagles could have Ronald Darby, who dressed for Dallas but did not play, back in the starting lineup with Jalen Mills. Darby, when he’s at his best, can run with any receiver in the league. The Eagles have allowed eight passing plays of 40-plus yards this season. Those big plays are killers.
3. The line of scrimmage is where the Eagles have won in the past, and it’s where they need to win again. The Eagles have some challenges at defensive tackle, a position that was as deep as any group in the league before the season. Now, they’re looking at Anthony Rush and Albert Huggins, two players picked up from practice squads on Monday, playing alongside Fletcher Cox. That’s far from ideal. Rush and Huggins would be the sixth and seventh defensive tackles to play this year. It’s difficult to win when you aren’t controlling the middle of the line.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Eagles have to deal with an excellence scheme from Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier, disciples of the late, great Jim Johnson who will bring pressure, who will offer the illusion of pressure, so quarterback Carson Wentz and his offensive line have to be on the same page at all times. Buffalo is fast, aggressive, and very much in sync. The Bills are playing with a great amount of confidence.
"I think this is a very well-schooled defense, one that's very opportunistic. They’ve created turnovers and short fields for their offense and put their offense in a really good position," offensive coordinator Mike Groh said. "They play really sound football. They play well together. They have great gap integrity. They do a good job of getting on the edge and creating pressure up front. They have good players and it looks like they play really well together. They all fit the scheme and the system really well."
4. Win the turnover battle. I can’t stress this enough. In my exclusive interview with head coach Doug Pederson on Tuesday, we talked about the giveaways. His answer was interesting. Take a listen. Good interview and revealing with regard to the way he is approaching this critical moment in the season.
5. Take the crowd out of the game. This goes without saying, but it’s important to come out of the gates fast. The two early turnovers at Dallas turned a normally docile crowd at AT&T Stadium bonkers, fueled by the early lead. In Buffalo, the Eagles need to get the early jump.
We’re still early in the week. The players and coaching staff have moved on from the Dallas loss, an “embarrassment,” Pederson called it. Buffalo is next. The Eagles need a win and they know it.