Eagles Defense Reminds NFC Why Philadelphia Remains Team to Beat

Pat Pickens
Last Updated: Sep 26, 2023

Despite the team’s 3-0 start, the Philadelphia Eagles offense has not quite looked like itself through three weeks.

Fortunately for Philadelphia, its defense has.

The Eagles D authored another tour-de-force performance in the 25-11 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night. In doing so, Philadelphia reminded everyone around football why it is still the team to beat in the NFC.

The Eagles’ defensive stats don’t jump off the page, mainly because they’ve given up a lot of passing yards since they’ve almost exclusively played with the lead. But they’re No. 1 against the run, tied for ninth in points-against per game (19.7), and are the only unit to score a defensive touchdown and safety through three games.

“I think what we’re really doing well is playing with good fundamentals and playing physical, and those will take you through no matter what level of football [you play],” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said after the game. “I think we’re doing a nice job tackling, and that’s part of the fundamentals.”

The Philadelphia defense has largely covered for an offense that’s still finding its groove. Philadelphia is sixth in the NFL in yards, mainly thanks to D’Andre Swift and a dominant running attack and in spite of an uneven start from quarterback and trendy preseason MVP pick Jalen Hurts.

Hurts, who had the shortest NFL MVP odds when a shoulder injury derailed his candidacy in 2022, has the same number of interceptions as touchdowns this season (three), ranks 20th in passing yards per game (213.3), and has somehow been sacked eight times.

His decision-making has become fodder for local and national media, mainly for his inability to get the ball to wide receiver A.J. Brown in the Eagles’ first two wins.

Hurts finally delivered the ball to Brown on Monday, with nine of his 23 completions and 131 of his 277 passing yards going to the standout wideout.

But Hurts struggled to convert Philadelphia’s chances into points, going just 1-for-5 in red-zone opportunities – including a crucial early turnover on downs and two interceptions in plus territory.

“He’s obviously going to want those two interceptions back,” Sirianni said. “We can’t turn the ball over. He’ll want those back.”

But the Eagles defense ensured those mistakes didn’t cost the team. Tampa Bay didn’t score off either turnover, and in fact, it was the Eagles who added to the scoreboard on the subsequent play after Hurts’ second pick when Nicholas Morrow smothered Rachaad White in the end zone for an easy safety that made it 22-3.

“I think we held it down for the most part to help the offense and put them in great positions,” defensive end Brandon Graham said. “That’s our job is to put the offense out there, and the offense capitalized off it.”

It’s a bit early for the Eagles to lean into winning by running the ball and playing elite defense – since that style is typically reserved for the postseason. They’ll need to break out offensively at some point.

But the Eagles are one of only three unbeaten teams left and sit alone atop the NFC East, arguably football’s toughest division. They’ll take wins however they come, especially with Miami, Buffalo, Kansas City, San Francisco, and two games against the Cowboys coming up over the next 11 weeks.

“It’s not easy to win in this league. It’s a funny league,” Graham said. “I know we’ve got something special we’re building.

“I’m just happy the guys just kept fighting.”


Pat Pickens

Pat Pickens is a seasoned sportswriter who has covered the NHL since 2013 for various websites, including The New York Times, NHL.com, Sportsnet.ca, USA Today, the Associated Press and many others. His debut book, titled "The Whalers" about the history of the NHL's Hartford Whalers, was released in October 2021.

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