How did the Eagles defense shut down a Rams offense that hasn’t lost at home all season, has averaged 38 points per game at home, and hasn’t scored under 29 points once?
For starters, the front-7 for the Birds played their best game as a collective unit all year. Fletcher Cox was a man on a mission last night. He demanded double teams and virtually controlled the interior of the line all by himself. Aaron Donald may be having one of the best seasons we’ve ever seen out of a defensive tackle, but he was outplayed by Cox last night.
His game stats don’t really do his performance justice; he finished with one sack and two QB hits. That’s still a solid stat line, but his dominance last night really paved the way for the rest of the defense to play well. The constant double teams that the Rams threw at Cox allowed other lineman to get in on the action. The team finished with seven total QB hits on Goff; two from Chris Long and Michael Bennett, and one from Grugier-Hill.
This constant pressure forced Goff into mistakes and threw their entire offense out of rhythm. He was forced to throw the ball 54 times, the most attempts he’s had on the year. From the beginning of the game McVay couldn’t seem find ways to move the ball consistently.
The secondary showed up last night too, in particular Avonte Maddox and Rasul Douglas.
Maddox has played surprisingly well when he’s been healthy this season. The 4th round rookie has two interceptions, three pass deflections and a forced fumble on the season. He’s been a pleasant surprise in an otherwise disappointing season for the defense. He notched his second pick last night against the Rams and was able to bring some much needed consistency to the secondary. He’s played well on the outside, in the nickel, and at safety when he’s been called upon. I can’t imagine that he won’t be a starter for the Eagles for years to come.
Let’s not forget about Douglas either, who has put together solid performances in back-to-back weeks. Douglas had a few bounces go against him last week against Dallas but he didn’t let that affect him last night. He had 11 solo tackles (14 total) and one for a loss. The last time an Eagles corner recorded at least 11 solo tackles in a game was when Troy Vincent had 13 on opening day in 1999, Andy Reid’s first game as a head coach.
I’ve always been a huge Rasul fan, so watching him ball out in these last two games has been awesome. I’m not sure what his role on the team will be moving forward, but he definitely deserves a chance to start. If Darby walks in free agency this offseason and Howie decides to part ways with Mills, I would imagine Douglas would get the first shot at winning the starting job.
All-in-all, the defense played their best game as a unit last night. Do I think they can keep it going next week against the Texans? Who knows, this team looks like different every week.
One thing is for certain though: Fletcher Cox is going to need to continue playing dominant football for the defense to continue causing turnovers. He’s the anchor of the unit, when he plays well, it has a trickle-down effect on the rest of the defense.
The Texans biggest weakness on offense is their offensive line, and Deshaun Watson has the worst QB rating while under pressure this season (32.7). Getting pressure on Watson will be the key to victory for the Birds, and it’ll be up to Cox and company to bring the heat again next week.