【N.J】 Eagles’ focus on situational football during bye week helped them remain unbeaten – New Jersey News

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PHILADELPHIA – The Eagles were getting set to rush Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett on a third and seven from the Eagles’ 20-yard line late in the fourth quarter of Sunday afternoon’s game at Lincoln Financial Field.

As Pickett dropped back, he felt the oncoming rush, something he had experienced all day from the Eagles defensive line. Feeling the rush and not being able to step into the throw, Pickett threw the ball downfield to tight end Pat Freiermuth, but it was deflected in the air by linebacker T.J. Edwards and into the waiting arms of safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson for the interception, leading to Pickett walking off the field after another failed third-down play.


The Eagles locked the Steelers up on third downs and made timely plays in the secondary to move to 7-0 in their 35-13 win, improving their record to 7-0. The Eagles held the Steelers to an 8% conversion rate on third down (1-for-12). In the previous three games, the Eagles had allowed offenses to convert 45% of their third downs, tied for the ninth-highest conversion percentage allowed.

Safety Marcus Epps said head coach Nick Sirianni emphasized specific key indicators regarding successful teams coming off the bye week. One of them was holding the Steelers at bay on third down.

“That was a big emphasis coming into this week with the head coach talking a lot about why teams lose coming off the bye, and one of those things was situational football on third down and red zone,” Epps said. “That was a big emphasis for us coming into this week and at practice. We were making sure that we were good on situational football on third down and red zone. It was really good to see us work really hard in practice, and it was good to see it come to fruition in the game.”

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The Eagles again had help from their defensive line, amassing six sacks on Pickett that put the Steelers offense out of sync, especially on first and second downs. Epps said the symbiotic relationship between the defensive line and the secondary has allowed the defensive backs to play at a high level.

“They help us every game, even if they don’t get sacks, they help us every single game. They’ve been playing great football, and I feel like we’ve just been playing really good team defense. They’re helping us out, we’re helping them out, and that’s what makes defenses great, so we just got to keep applying to be in that great category as a defense.”

Linebacker Kyzir White, who finished with 11 tackles, was part of the reason why the Eagles had success. White, along with Edwards, controlled the middle of the field on third downs while also covering the flat areas, taking away the parts of the field that had become a safety blanket for Pickett.

“Third down can make you or break you,” White said. “To hold them to 1-of-12, I feel like that was definitely our advantage today. It was huge.”

White added that the way the defense has been playing of late is just a microcosm of how the team defense could play in the future once they play a complete game.

“I think the sky’s the limit,” White said. “We just got to keep pushing, keep getting better every day, and stay hungry and motivated.”

Epps’ teammate in the defensive backfield, Gardner-Johnson, sees potential in how the Eagles have played defensively. Gardner-Johnson said the way the defense is coming together has to do with the mentality that every player has to play well for their teammates.

“We feed off of each other,” Gardner-Johnson said. “We are brothers. If one person eats, we let him eat. We all eat, and at the end of the day, there is a plate for everybody, not just a plate for one person. When you have that mindset, you go out there and play for each other and let everything fall where it may.”

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Chris Franklin may be reached at cfranklin@versuszone.com.

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