Ford: Jenkins says Eagles must be boring to win

Eagles strong safety Malcolm Jenkins (27) defends a pass to Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard during the first quarter on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016 in East Rutherford, N.J.

Immediately after the Eagles came off the field at MetLife Stadium on Sunday afternoon, trudging into the locker room having suffered another death by accumulated paper cuts, safety Malcolm Jenkins stopped them and gathered the team into a large huddle around him.

It was players, coaches, trainers, equipment guys, everyone. The entire room knew the Eagles had lost a game they could easily have won, which could also be said about earlier road losses at Detroit and Dallas. Jenkins was pretty sure he knew why.

"We've got to understand what wins and what loses for us," Jenkins recounted later. "What's our formula? For us, it might not be flashy. It might be boring football, but it works for us."

At the moment, the team's season hangs by a thread. The Eagles have lost four of their last five, fallen to .500 midway through the schedule, and the next two games are against teams leading their respective divisions. Maybe it isn't late, but it ain't early, either. If anything is going to come from the season, which looks increasingly unlikely, the turnaround has to happen right away.

Jenkins made a plea for pragmatism and common sense and it wasn't a coincidence that the coaching staff was included in the audience. Study the Eagles and what do you see? Are there game-changing superstars at the skill positions? There are not. Are there shutdown defenders who don't need the help of others? That would be a no. What you see is a decent football team that could be more, but only if it isn't asked to play like a great one.

That's a sobering bit of analysis to drop into a locker room after a tough loss - everyone wants to think his team is great - but it was accurate.

"When we take care of the football on offense, whether punting it or kicking field goals . . . just be patient, methodical with the football, not turning it over, and then have our defense be stingy like it has been, not making mistakes, not beating ourselves, and bank on the special teams to be devastating, that formula works for us," Jenkins said.

The reference to kicking field goals was particularly pointed on an afternoon in which Doug Pederson turned his back on two of them and the team lost by five points. Maybe Jenkins didn't mean for the connection to be quite that direct, but the inference is unavoidable.

What Jenkins was acknowledging is that the offense isn't very reliable right now. It can score enough points to win, but it needs to make the three-foot putts and it can't put the team in a hole by giving away the ball. Two Carson Wentz interceptions in the first quarter led to a 14-0 deficit and the Eagles chased the game after that.

"When we are clicking, although our offense isn't driving the ball 80 yards every drive, there's either a [takeaway] by the defense or a big return and they get good field position and put points up," Jenkins said. "That methodical rhythm is boring as hell, but it works for us. When we turn the ball over and spot teams 14 points, or don't come up with those field goals, or give up big plays on defense, it messes it up and we've got to come out of character in order to try to make it up."

Jenkins didn't acquit the defense, which had the option of keeping New York out of the end zone after the interceptions, but the point is that the defensive personnel isn't great, either, and asking it to defend 30-yard drives instead of 60-yard drives is a taxing load. That was particularly true on Sunday when the plan to harass Eli Manning with the front four never materialized and the back end of the defense was exposed. Even when the cornerbacks and safeties weren't running into each other, the secondary was picked apart by Manning, who threw four touchdown passes, three of which were plays that covered more than 25 yards.

The offense failed and put too much pressure on the defense. The pass rush was ineffective and that snowball rolled downhill and pancaked the secondary. The Eagles got out of balance, out of rhythm, and didn't have the talent required to keep from tipping over.

So what now? Back to the boring formula, according to Jenkins.

"It's not an ideal situation, but it's far from over. We're going to hear that the wheels are falling off and we're doomed," Jenkins said. "We're not going to kid ourselves. This is not the position we want to be in, and it's urgent to fix these small things, but our margin from losing to winning is small. Fix one or two things and we'll be winning the way we can."

Eliminating turnovers is not a small thing to fix. Neither is overcoming a talent gap against opponents. But football players need to believe and Jenkins was selling the notion that the Eagles are so close to winning they can reach out and touch it. At 4-4, with half the season left, that's a sale he could still make.

His timing was right. In a few weeks, if boring wins don't return, nobody will line up to buy the speech, and attendance at the meeting might not even be all that good.