Step up, run defense. That's the message defensive coordinator Sean McDermott has to be hammering home this week after watching 49ers running back Frank Gore dismantle Arizona for 167 yards on the ground in Monday night's San Francisco victory. Gore is a hard-charging, never-stop running back who is capable of taking over a game. Against Arizona, he did just that for the 49ers offense.
So, yeah, the Eagles have to stop the run on Sunday. And run defense has been pretty good this year, in large part because the defensive line works so hard and gains leverage against bigger bodies, and because the linebackers have been physical and disciplined and have tackled well against the run. Also, McDermott has done a good job ordering up the run blitzes, and he has gotten way, way more mileage out of veteran Jeremiah Trotter than anyone expected.
San Francisco has its weapons in the passing game -- tight end Vernon Davis is a touchdown machine and is as athletic as anyone the Eagles have and will see all year at that position -- and rookie Michael Crabtree is an undeniable talent who has made an early mark in the NFL.
But it is the running game that demands the most attention for the Eagles defense, the first of two straight games in which the Eagles had better play well in the early run downs or the defense will have its troubles.
I'm of the belief that Sunday's poor performance against the Giants was a one-time thing, an oddity on a wet field and 60 minutes of plain poor defensive football by both teams. The Eagles will get it right. McDermott has shown in a very short time how capable he is, and has shown great trust in the young staff he has assembled.
Stop the run and go after quarterback Alex Smith and the Eagles will be fine. The 49ers are coming here with a purpose and the Eagles have to play a very good game to win and advance one step closer to a playoff spot. And after that struggle against the Giants, everyone is going to be watching the defense.
NEWS, NOTES AND SOME OF THIS AND THAT
After watching 49ers outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks rip apart the Cardinals' left tackle tandem of Mike Gandy and Jeremy Bridges and record three sacks (giving him five for the season), I'm even more pleased that Eagles left tackle Jason Peters is rounding into form. He is, actually, playing better than he did last year in Buffalo, and he made the Pro Bowl then. Peters still isn't 100 percent with that knee/ankle injury, but he allows the Eagles to send help elsewhere along the offensive line. Peters is handling blockers one on one most of the time and is doing a good job.
* So what does the move to promote tight end Martin Rucker and release running back P.J. Hill really mean? On one hand, Rucker represents insurance for banged-up Brent Celek, who has the thumb injury and a stiff back. But Celek is going to be fine and he is going to play on Sunday. On a more important hand, the Eagles really like Rucker, a big, athletic target who is learning the game at this level. He was a big-time threat at Missouri and needs to get the strict offense here down to perfection. Let's see what happens with Rucker, another young tight end on this roster. As for Hill, he is a prospect, but with Brian Westbrook apparently on the mend and maybe playing on Sunday, well, Hill really wasn't needed at this point. * DeSean Jackson deserves every award he receives. He is as breathtaking and game-breaking as any players the Eagles have had in the modern era of this league. * What is happening at middle linebacker here? Where will Akeem Jordan earn the bulk of his playing time? I sure would like to know how Jordan played in the few snaps he had in the middle on Sunday night. He made one play on the edge when he flowed left and made a stop at the line of scrimmage, and I wonder if he will see more time there. * Leonard Weaver had 10 touches against the Giants, so he is definitely going to stay part of things offensively. The Eagles have stuck with the running game and they are having positive results. The mix has been great and the consistency of the screen game has been so, so welcomed. * The Eagles were 3 of 4 in the red zone against the Giants (I'm not counting the last possession) and I'm beginning to think the Eagles have their red-zone woes nearly solved. The play calling has been creative, the running game has been a plus and the emergence of Michael Vick has clearly made a big, big difference.