September 24 Philadelphia Daily News:
“THE DENSE CLOUD of smoke created by Andy Reid’s bomb-throwing this week finally began to drift away yesterday, and there sat Sean McDermott at the NovaCare podium, talking about the part of the team that is on the field when Michael Vick isn’t.
Oh, yeah. Those guys.
McDermott’s message was that the league-high 59 points allowed isn’t the whole story, that his young defense is capable of playing really well, it just doesn’t do so all the time.
Before you guffaw too loudly, the play-by-play sheets support his point, to a point. In the opener against Green Bay, the Eagles were dominant early, then gave up all 27 Packers points on four successive drives in the second and third quarters, before giving up nothing in the fourth. Last week at Detroit, the Lions scored on three of their first five possessions, including a humiliating six-play, 76-yard drive in which no passes were attempted. Then the Eagles shut down Detroit for five straight possessions. Then, with the Eagles ahead by 18 points, Detroit roared back with successive scores that looked almost effortless. Then the Birds stopped four successive passes after a Lions onside-kick recovery, averting the kind of disaster that could have been season-defining.
“I think we are a good defense,” McDermott said. “We’ve been inconsistent, which happens with young teams . . . We’ve got to get that ironed out. That’ll take place over time here. We continue to play good, aggressive football, intense, emotional football, and that’ll iron itself out. We need to be more consistent.”
The run defense against Detroit was a good illustration. (And a relevant one, with the Birds visiting run-oriented Jacksonville this weekend.) The Lions gained a whopping 109 yards on 17 carries in the first half. After McDermott had a little halftime talk, Detroit gained 6 yards on nine carries the rest of the way. That kind of turnaround is hard to account for.
“We weren’t fitting the run the way we needed to, from a scheme standpoint, knowing where the gaps were, based on their running scheme, and physically, we just got handled” early on, McDermott said. “Knowing how we fit the run was a key part of it.
“We weren’t very physical, and the vision for this defense is to be a flat-out physical football team on defense, so I was disappointed in that . . . We did a better job [with the run game] in the second quarter and third quarter, then got sloppy down at the end of the game there, which I’m not happy about.”
McDermott said he thinks the return of middle linebacker Stewart Bradley, out since halftime of the opener with a concussion, will help his defense progress.”
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