Explaining the Eagles’ Late-Game Defensive Struggles
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — For the second consecutive week the Eagles defense was leaking oil in the fourth quarter and had to be bailed out.
Against the New York Giants, it was a 61-yard Jake Elliott field goal. In Sunday's 26-24 win over the Los Angeles Chargers, it was the running game, putting together a textbook version of the four-minute offense -- one that lasted 6:44 to be exact -- to play keep away from Philip Rivers.
Over the past three weeks Jim Schwartz's defense has now allowed 52 points in the final 15 minutes of games versus a total of 23 points through the first three quarters of those contests, a troubling trend but one that's easily explainable.
"We've had our share of injuries, particularly in the back end," coach Doug Pederson said at his Monday press conference.
Patrick Robinson was considered to be a Band-Aid when the Eagles signed him to a one-year deal in the offseason but the former first-round pick is healthy and excelling.
Explosive plays have been a problem for the Eagles and part of that has to do with veterans missing from the secondary. Against the Chargers, it was Ronald Darby (dislocated ankle), Corey Graham (hamstring) and Jaylen Watkins (hamstring), and the week before Rodney McLeod was always down with his own hamstring issue.
The attrition has forced rookie Rasul Douglas into the lineup and Rivers seized on that completing six of eight throws against the West Virginia product for 203 yards, the most yardage allowed in a game by any defender in the NFL this season.
"Young players are playing and things are going to happen a little faster for them," Pederson explained. "It's something we have to continue to evaluate. There always seems to be one or two big plays, chunk plays, in the game that we have to try to eliminate."
The coach does not believe his team is wearing down, however.
"I don't think it's much of a conditioning aspect," Pederson said. "Look, we had 74 [offensive] plays yesterday to our defense's 53."
Not to mention the time of possession advantage Philadelphia had, which was 39:18 versus 20:42 for the Chargers.
John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen