Both Andy Reid and Jim Johnson have claimed that the 2008 Eagles defense is the best defense they have ever taken into the playoffs. And the statistics certainly back it up. Entering the postseason, the Eagles have been dominant: third overall in yards per game, third in passing yards allowed, fourth in rushing yards allowed, third in sacks, ninth in takeaways and fourth in points allowed. In essence, there's no ""bend-but-don't-break"" here – the motto in 2008 is "if you don't bend, you won't break, either." The Eagles have taken that to the bank – they haven't let the opponent put more than 14 points on the board since Week 13.
So how does this year's Eagles defense stack up? Here's a look back at Eagle playoff defenses since the 2001 season, Reid's second playoff season and his first trip to the NFC Championship game. The question: does defense win championships? And if so, how?
The Eagles' stats: Total Yards: 7th; Pass Defense: 2nd; Run Defense: 18th; Sacks: 7th; Scoring: 2nd
This was a very good Eagle defense, and Jim Johnson's complicated blitz schemes allowed them to produce a ton of sacks and keep quarterbacks off-balance, leading to a second-ranked passing defense. But the weak run defense was a big factor in the NFC title matchup with St. Louis – Marshall Faulk gashed the Eagles for 159 yards.
The champs, New England:
Total Yards:24th; Pass Defense: 24th; Run Defense: 19th; Sacks: 13th; Scoring: 6th
Relatively unimpressive statistics for the Pats, but they got hot at the right time. For the postseason, they ranked second in rush defense, including holding Faulk to 76 yards in the Super Bowl.
The Eagles' stats: Total Yards:4th; Pass Defense:7th; Run Defense: 9th; Sacks: 1st; Scoring: 2nd
The story:This brutally aggressive and statistically dominant Eagles' defense will forever be plagued by the image of Blaine Bishop pursuing Joe Jurevicius down the middle of the Veterans Stadium turf in the NFC Championship game, a 27-10 loss to the eventual champion Buccaneers.
The champs, Tampa Bay: Total Yards: 1st; Pass Defese: 1st; Run Defense: 5th; Sacks: 6th; Scoring: 1st
Amazing that this beautifully coached Monte Kiffin defense, which dismantled high-flying Oakland in the Super Bowl, might go down as the third-most famous defense to win the Big One in this decade.
The Eagles' stats: Total Yards: 20th; Pass Defense:16th; Run Defense: 22nd; Sacks:14th; Scoring: 8th
The story:On paper, it's amazing that this team even got to the NFC title game, which it lost to Carolina. This was probably the first Eagle defense to live and die by, ""bend, don't break."" Unfortunately, injuries and an ineffective offense broke it just enough.
The champs, New England: Total Yards: 7th; Pass Defense: 8th; Run Defense: 4th; Sacks: 6th; Scoring: 1st
This good Patriots defense relied heavily on Tom Brady and its offense to carry the team in a Super Bowl victory over surprising Carolina. Jake Delhomme threw for 325 yards and three touchdowns, but Brady bested him with 354 yards and three scores.
The Eagles' stats: Total Yards: 10th; Pass Defense: 12th; Run Defense: 16th; Sacks: 2nd; Scoring: 4th
The story:Was this another ""bend-but-don't-break"" defense? Probably. But in 2004, it didn't matter. It was all about 5, 81, and the high-powered Eagle offense. But Tom Brady, ever the opportunist, took advantage of the Eagles' fledgling secondary with a remarkably efficient passing game in Super Bowl XXXIX.
The champs, New England: Total Yards: 9th; Pass Defense: 17th; Run Defense: 6th; Sacks: 2nd; Scoring: 3rd
The Patriots' run defense stiffened up in the Super Bowl, rendering Brian Westbrook ineffective and forcing the Eagles into an extremely unbalanced offensive attack (56 passes, 16 runs). As such, they let Brady and the offense control the clock and the flow of the game.
The Eagles' stats: Total Yards: 15th; Pass Defense: 12th; Run Defense: 26th; Sacks: 8th; Scoring:4th
Another Eagle squad that gave up chunks of yardage, but very few points. This team truly proved that this strategy really doesn't work. But the defense bit off more than it could chew against New Orleans in the NFC divisional round. Deuce McAllister bulldozed the Eagles for 143 yards, en route to the Saints' first NFC title game appearance.
The champs, Indianapolis: Total Yards: 21st; Pass Defense: 2nd; Run Defense:32nd; Sacks: 30th; Scoring: 23rd
This Colts defense bent. It broke. It didn't care. The offense had Peyton Manning. But, not without merit, the D magically stepped up to lead the postseason in yards against, and was second in scoring defense, passing defense AND rushing defense. It could even be argued that the D carried the Colts to victory. Amazing.