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For once, secondary play a positive in Eagles' win
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A week after getting torn apart by one Manning brother, the Eagles’ secondary tore apart the other.
After allowing four touchdowns and 38 points to a nearly perfect Peyton Manning in a blowout loss last Sunday in Denver, the beleaguered Eagles’ secondary made life miserable for younger brother Eli Manning in a 36-21 win at MetLife Stadium (see Instant Replay).
The Eagles beat Manning for the 13th time Sunday, picking him off three times in the fourth quarter and limiting the winless Giants to just 50 yards on their final five possessions.
“It was a huge stride for us to make today and come out and play as a cohesive unit,” cornerback Cary Williams said. “We really focused on finishing each and every play. We really focused on winning those individual matchups. I think we showed that today.
“We still have room to improve. We’re not at a point we want to be right now. We still feel there’s work to be done. We just want to build on this and work to get better.”
The Eagles are still on pace to allow the 13th-most passing yards in NFL history. Eli did throw for 334, the fourth time this year an opposing QB has passed for 325 or more. And Hakeem Nicks did catch nine balls for 142.
But it all just seemed very different.
The D-backs were aggressive and physical and strong to the ball. Manning completed just 24 of 52 passes and had 11 attempts knocked down. He’s the first quarterback ever to throw 50 or more passes against the Eagles and complete fewer than half.
“When you make plays like we were making, your confidence blows up and you start picking at the quarterback’s confidence, and then he starts to second-guess himself and making bad throws,” rookie safety Earl Wolff said. “Eli’s a great quarterback, but our guys made a lot of big plays today.”
And that’s what they haven’t been doing.
During their three-game losing streak, the Eagles didn’t have a single interception. In their two wins, they’ve had five.
“Every week, we say we have to make plays,” Nate Allen said. “It’s one thing to say it, it’s another thing to go execute and do it, like you saw today.”
Cornerbacks Brandon Boykin and Williams both had interceptions, as did linebacker Mychal Kendricks.
But the Eagles’ best D-back Sunday was probably Bradley Fletcher, who was credited with five knockdowns and eight tackles.
“Hey, sometimes when games are going like that, you’re getting a lot of balls thrown your way, you just have to keep battling, and I was just battling through the whole game,” Fletcher said.
“We had to fight to the end. We got some hands on some balls, we made some big plays, and we came out with a victory.”
The Eagles made it clear they still have plenty to work on in the defensive backfield.
That’s obvious. Let’s keep this all in perspective.
But considering what Philip Rivers, Alex Smith and Peyton Manning had done to them the last three weeks -- completing 74 percent of their passes with seven TDs and no interceptions -- this was big-time progress.
“We took a nice solid step forward that we can build on,” defensive coordinator Billy Davis said. “It wasn’t about ripping and yelling and screaming. Everybody’s got so much pride. When you get a beat-down like we did in Denver, the only way to get to fundamentals and smaller things, and that’s what we did this week, and it worked.”
Wolff made his second start in place of injured free safety Patrick Chung and hung in there a lot better than he did last week in Denver.
“I feel like with the play calling, it allowed us to really challenge the receivers, which allowed us to really make plays when the ball was in the air,” Wolff said.
“When we’re making plays, that fires up the offense. Then they score and it fires us up. And then we make another play and it just keeps going. That energy on the sideline. It all starts with guys making plays.”
Davis said he’s seen the secondary play well -- physical, aggressive, smart -- for small periods of time so far.
On Sunday, finally, they sustained it.
“Parts of it show up and then we just need to have it show up more and more, the techniques, the fundamentals,” he said. “You just saw more of it tonight, the techniques and fundamentals. You just saw more of it.
“You saw more consistent play, and hopefully we build on this and get even more consistent than what we showed tonight.”