Philadelphia Eagles defense still has plenty of cracks

Many fixes need to be made for team to declare this unit fixed.


— Three fourth-quarter interceptions and a sack. Three intentional grounding penalties and 53 rushing yards by their opponent. Just 21 points allowed despite 383 yards gained by the New York Giants at home.

The numbers indicate significant progress by the Philadelphia Eagles' defense in Sunday's 36-21 victory.

The reality is that this unit is just as lost now as it ever was, if not more.

Unlike the week before, in a 52-20 loss to the Denver Broncos, the Eagles simply had the fortune of going against an opponent that was ravaged by injury and not nearly as tuned as Denver's.

The Giants left a minimum of two touchdowns on the field and were victimized by a series of drops, errant passes and missed blocking assignments that are the reason they are winless.

If anything, the Giants made the most progress Sunday.

This was the first time since Week 1 that they were reasonably close to their opponent in the fourth quarter. In fact, they had a lead.

And it was the first time since Week 1 that they didn't suffer a blowout defeat.

They also protected quarterback Eli Manning fairly well, despite their offensive line enduring a severe injury crisis.

And yet ... "it was a great outing by the defense," Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis said after the game. "They came up and made the plays when we needed them. It was a good team win. We took a step forward today. It was a good solid step forward and we're excited about it.

"The players showed a lot of character today. They scored two touchdowns in the second half on us and it started slipping a little bit, but the guys got a better grip on it and made the plays to give the offense the ball back. That's what we talked about all along is, let's get the ball back in our offense's hands and good things happen."

In this game, however, the Eagles had more luck than great play.

On the Giants' second series, following intentional grounding and false-start penalties that backed them up to the Eagles' 42-yard line, running back David Wilson broke behind linebacker Connor Barwin deep down the left sideline with safety help still 8 yards away, but he wasn't able to haul in an overthrow.

In the second quarter, Brandon Jacobs fumbled near midfield to take the Giants out of another potential score.

On their final series of the second quarter, Rueben Randle broke behind Bradley Fletcher deep down the middle, with no deep help, but Manning's underthrow forced Randle to slow down and allowed Fletcher to close and break it up.

Manning's first of three interceptions in the fourth came when Trent Cole grabbed his facemask, forcing an errant throw off the helmet of the offensive lineman in front of him. No call.

The football found the hands of linebacker Mychal Kendricks, who returned it 18 yards to set up a quick touchdown strike that turned the game for the Eagles, who were leading by one point at the time.

Give Davis and the Eagles credit for taking top playmaker Victor Cruz out of the game with sound schemes that limited the Salsa King to five catches for 48 yards, with a long of 14. But blame Cruz's Giant teammates with as many or more misplays that failed to capitalize on others left open as a result.

"They had a couple new looks, but nothing we weren't ready for and didn't have an answer for," Manning said. "We knew they were going to do some doubles, like double Cruz or double some outside receivers, and they did some of that. We had some answers to try and get guys through the double team and we just didn't hit many of them.

"You can have a great scheme and the perfect play, but it's about execution. You've got to execute. The line's got to block, I've got to make the good throw, the receiver has to make the catch in order to have success."

Most of the Giants' errors were unforced.

That doesn't mean the Eagles shouldn't feel good about what happened and attempt to build on it. After all, they're tied with the Dallas Cowboys for first place in the NFC East, and they did play much better in the fourth quarter than they did in the first three — two great signs.

"It motivates us," cornerback Brandon Boykin said. "We go into another opponent away next week, so we know when we get pressure, when we get turnovers, it helps our offense and it helps us score. In order to win games, you've got to get turnovers, you've got to get good field position, and I feel like we're on the track like we want it to, to get back and get those turnovers."

Boykin and his teammates in the secondary kept their composure after being hit with another initial punch that put their opponents ahead first.

"We held our own," Boykin said. "The end result was a win. You can go back and correct all the other things. They were going deep on us a lot early on. People had to step up and make plays, and I think that's exactly what we did. They came at us early and had success, but we kept our cool and did what we had to do."

That much is true, even if what they were required to do to beat the Giants was to simply not panic.

But for a defense schemed to take away the long ball at all costs, there are still quite a few holes that shows they're nowhere close.