At any given time during a football game, there are 22 guys confined in a small space on the field. While all of them are likely going to make mistakes over the course of the game, only at a few positions do those mistakes become both glaring and magnified.
One of those positions is cornerback.
Dimitri Patterson has started each game since the bye week at right cornerback, filling in for an injured Ellis Hobbs. Patterson has 46 tackles and four interceptions, returning one for a touchdown against the Redskins in Week 10. But on Tuesday night against the Vikings, Patterson gave up consecutive pass plays of 46 and 23 yards and added a personal foul, all on the opening possession of the second half.
That prompted defensive coordinator Sean McDermott and head coach Andy Reid to replace Patterson with nickel cornerback Joselio Hanson for the remainder of the game.
While the starter moving forward at right cornerback has yet to be announced, don't expect Patterson's confidence to be shaken either way.
"Confidence is something that you just have inside you," Patterson said Thursday. "That's just who you are, and that's who I am. My confidence hasn't changed since I set foot in this league. Things aren't always going to be smooth, and it won't always go your way, and that's just how it is. Confidence is something that you're just going to have to have, and no one can really give it to you.
"If you're in the NFL, and you're hoping for someone to give you confidence, then you're not going to last long in this league."
Hanson has lasted for six years in the NFL, and despite his success in the slot, he's never doubted his ability to start and play outside. That may be just what the defensive coaching staff asks him to do Sunday against the Cowboys, in what amounts to a tune-up game before the playoffs
"I think of myself as starting-caliber corner," Hanson said Thursday. "If I go out there and start for this team, I'll do my best to make plays and help us win."
Each NFL cornerback would tell you that nothing helps him more than a successful pass rush. When the quarterback is under duress, the timing of the passing game is thrown off – often leading to mistakes.
The Eagles sacked the quarterback 21 times in the seven games before the bye week, but only 16 times in the eight games since. Sean McDermott said Thursday that finding a way to put more pressure on the quarterback is a priority as the playoffs approach, but Patterson won't use the lack of a pass rush as an excuse for the secondary.
"That's part of football," Patterson said. "You're not going to get a pass rush every time. You're going to be in some situations where you have to cover for a long time. That's just something you have to expect especially as a cornerback and especially in this defense where we play a lot of man-to-man."
Whoever lines up opposite Pro Bowl starter Asante Samuel, the Eagles are confident that the defensive personnel is in place for what they hope is an extended playoff run.
-- Posted by Josh Goldman, 3:37 p.m., December 30