Gaither leads a pumped-up defense

It would be easy to make the assumption that Jeremiah Trotter's workout last week had something to do with Omar Gaither's performance in the Eagles' 34-14 thumping of the Chiefs yesterday.

Of course, that would be overlooking several facts, chief among them being that Kansas City's offense isn't very good.

"It was coincidence," said Gaither, who led the Eagles with nine tackles, seven solo.

Last week against the Saints, the middle linebacker assisted on just three tackles in the Eagles' embarrassing 48-22 loss. He wasn't the only defender who reason for the defense's futility. But he appeared to be the focal point when the team brought Trotter in for an evaluation Thursday.

Gaither, who was awarded the injured Stewart Bradley's position just before the season, didn't view it as a threat.

"If you can let it motivate you, you can let it de-motivate you, in a way," Gaither said. "So I don't worry about it. I've been around long enough to know that anything can happen for any reason. It's not my job to decipher why."

The knock against the 6-foot-2, 235-pound Gaither is that he's not big or physical enough to play the run. Trotter specialized in that area. But Gaither was part of a unit that held the bruising Larry Johnson (19 carries for 38 yards) to one of his worst outings and the Chiefs to just 3.4 yards a carry yesterday.

"The main thing we needed to do was we needed to take [Johnson] out of the game," safety Quintin Mikell said. "That was our focus all week - kind of make them one dimensional."

Kansas City, in effect, had a lot to do with its one-dimensionality. Rather than take to the air after the Eagles rendered the run game useless, the Chiefs kept the ball on the ground.

"Honestly, I was surprised a little bit," Gaither said. "They run the ball a lot, but they ran the ball much more than I thought they would with the score being what it was."

Nevertheless, the Eagles' defense was more aggressive, even if it was preying on a team that has now lost 26 of its last 28 games. Last week, defensive coordinator Sean McDermott chose not to blitz Drew Brees much, fearing the quarterback's three-step drop-and-release would waste the extra rushers. But Brees picked apart a passive secondary, which in turn opened up lanes for a run game that tallied 133 yards.

"Everyone in there today, I guarantee you, was still thinking about what happened last week," Mikell said. "We don't want that to happen again, so we had to go out there and . . . get our swagger back."

The Eagles pressured quarterback Matt Cassel early, sacking him three times. But the Chiefs were without their best receiver, Dwayne Bowe, who has a hamstring injury, and Kansas City was content to keep giving the ball to the once-great Johnson. Cassel completed 14 of 18 passes for two TDs, but threw for just 90 yards.

Gaither, who had a sack and another tackle for loss, and Tracy White - in their role as the nickel linebackers - contributed to the pass defense's success. White said the group of linebackers had taken notice when the team brought the 32-year-old Trotter in for a look-see.

"We were like, 'They might bring Trotter back,' " White said. "It was talked about, but it wasn't anything to worry about. We know [Gaither's] the middle linebacker, and we rallied around him."

Cornerback Sheldon Brown said competition or the threat of competition wasn't a distraction.

"Just because [coaches] work out another guy, that's not going to say I'm not pushing myself enough," he said. "We, as athletes, push ourselves all the time. That's crazy."

 


Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or jmclane@phillynews.com.