I posted last week that Eagles’ defensive coordinator Sean McDermott had a chance to earn his stripes last weekend. Working with a patchwork squad, he would truly have to coach them to victory.
Consider those stripes earned…and it was a total team effort.
From sack machine Trent Cole all the way down to the twenty-fourth man, everyone on the Eagles’ defense pitched in and made it happen.
But to borrow a page from the NHL, the Eagles’ three defensive stars of the game are guys whose names you almost never hear or see in the box score.
There would be several honorable mentions, of course. Jeremiah Trotter, for instance made his first start in three years and used his much-maligned cover skills to make a great open field tackle that stalled a drive.
But the third star would go collectively to the secondary, specifically the backups. First up are Ramzee Robinson and Jack Ikegwuonu, who didn’t see much defensive PT but made contributions on special teams. This allowed Dimitri Patterson to focus on having to be the nickel corner.
That help was invaluable, as thanks to Sheldon Brown’s nagging hamstring and a neck burner that kept Asante Samuel on the sidelines for most of the second half, Patterson became the top corner by default. He responded with four tackles and a game almost no one would’ve expected at one corner.
Nor would they have expected the game Macho Harris played. With Quintin Demps out, he was the only depth at safety besides Quentin Mikell and Sean Jones; but because Ellis Hobbs is on IR, Harris has also become the top option for kick returns.
If that wasn’t enough, he ended up spending much of the second half playing his college position of cornerback. With all that on his plate, Macho had a swell game—four tackles, one defensed pass and a 25-yard average on returns.
All in all, a good night for guys who didn’t figure to see much action this season.
The second star would go to defensive tackle Antonio Dixon, who blocked a Robbie Gould field goal early in the fourth quarter. It was the only tally Dixon registered on the stat sheet, but it was perhaps the biggest play of the game.
His block prevented Chicago from taking a 23-17 lead and gave the ball to the Birds at their own 38. Free from the pressure of absolutely having to get in the end zone, the Eagles drove and scored what would end up being the winning touchdown less than six game minutes later.
But if that wasn’t the biggest play of the game, the one made by our top star with less than a minute left.
That would be linebacker Tracy White, another special teams ace who threw a joker into Jay Cutler’s deck on Chicago’s final offensive play.
White, who was in the game in lieu of Trotter, Joe Mays or Moise Fokou because of the zone coverage scheme, did something that the Eagles have had trouble doing all season—stop the tight end.
But he did more than that. On a second-and-10 play with 52 seconds remaining, White saw something. He read the route Greg Olsen was running and met the ball a split second before it got into Olson’s arms, tipping it away.
Sean Jones came down with it, and the rest is history.
It was the second good play White had made in that short drive, the first coming when he assisted Will Witherspoon on a tackle that stopped Olson from rumbling for 20 or 30 yards over the middle.
White has all of 15 tackles and two passes defensed this year, but none of them were as huge as the pair he flopped to seal the game for the Birds.
So, yes, it was a total team effort for the Eagles, and they got the job done. With even more roster flux on the defensive side—Ikegwuonu was waived and replaced with Bengals practice squad refugee Geoffrey Pope—it’s a good thing they face another struggling offense in the Washington Redskins this Sunday.
But if last weekend is any indication, Sean McDermott will have his gang up to the task.