Under the late Jim Johnson, Philadelphia's defense was among the best units in the league at getting off the field on third down.
That success has continued under defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. Entering Sunday's game with the Bucs, opponents are converting just 22.5 percent of third downs against the Eagles. That's tops in the NFL.
"We do talk more on third down that those are money downs where you get yourself off the field and get the ball back into the offense's hands," head coach Andy Reid said. "I think our defense, we do a really good job of that."
The more opportunities you give NFL offenses, the more they will find ways to exploit defenses, which makes ending drives on third down a priority. And it's a point of emphasis on the practice field and in the meeting rooms.
"We spend a lot of time on it in practice," said cornerback Sheldon Brown. "From a mental standpoint, you want to have people in the right position. If you're blitzing, you want to have every man in his gap and not leave a guy out to dry. I think from that standpoint on third down, we're mentally sharp and we don't have guys making mistakes."
Rookie Macho Harris credits McDermott for making the right calls and the players for their execution.
"(Execution) is important on all downs. We want to execute all downs and dominate all downs," Harris said. "We pretty much aim for, one, two, three and out. We strive for that, strive to be the best defense, that's what we do."
Brown says the unit aims to be "37 percent or better" on third downs and they have been well within that mark so far this season. Whether third and long or third and short, the Eagles defense is getting the job done through three games.
The defense pitched a shutout on third down in its last game as Kansas City finished 0 for 11. In the season opener, Carolina converted just 3 of 16 third-down opportunities (19%). In Week 2, the Saints converted nearly half of their third downs (6-13-46%).
"The bottom line comes down to the execution and the scheme," Reid said. "Our players know that on that down we have good stuff there and the coaches do a nice job with that."
Since 2000, opponents are converting 33.80 percent of third downs against the Eagles. The team's record over that span is 94-52-1 (.643).
-- Posted by Bob Kent, 4:49 p.m., October 10