Short week before Texans is especially unkind to Eagles defense

On its face, it seems inhumane, asking an NFL team to come back from a Sunday evening road game in a cold-weather city like Chicago to play again 96 hours later in Week 13 of the cruelest season in sports.

That's the physical aspect. The mental preparation is manageable for an offense this deep into a season.

But for a defense, preparing for a nonconference foe in this time frame is a nearly impossible task.

"Thank you," Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said. "You can come into our defensive staff meeting. I'm biased, but how could it not?"

Studying tendencies on film and then preparing players to recognize them on the field is how defenses succeed in the NFL. The Texans might be 1-5 after their 4-1 start, but they are a top-10 offense almost across the board. They boast such weapons as receiver Andre Johnson and running back Arian Foster, the league's top rusher.

Against such weapons, lengthy preparation works best.

"Defense is a lot of repetition. You have time to study film," McDermott said. "You have 4, 5, 6 days sometimes to find that awareness - what they want to do out of this formation, out of that formation. There's a little bit of uneasiness, when you haven't had an opportunity to go back and look at it all.

"And it's not what I know. It's what the guys know."

The Eagles had plenty of time to prepare for the Bears, who upset them with 31 points. At least they won't have time to stew.

"Ah, it could be a good thing," safety Nate Allen said. "You get to play and get the bad one out of your mind right away."

"We like to play games," defensive end Trent Cole said, smiling hungrily.

They prefer to play games well prepared.

"You have to cram 3 or 4 days of practice into 2 days. The coaches don't have a lot of time to go over it with you," Allen said. "You've got to just be a pro. Look at tape yourself. Put more time in."

After returning late Sunday night, the team spent Monday afternoon in an abbreviated meeting session and practice. Yesterday, the Eagles finished condensing installation of the game plan, usually a 2-day affair, and rehearsed it. They will run through a mock game, as they normally would on a Saturday.

"You're going to put in a couple long days and then you're going to ask the players today to incorporate a Wednesday, Thursday and Friday all in one. It's a lot to digest," coach Andy Reid said.

Simplification will not be necessary - not this deep into a season.

"You either use the things you didn't use last week or things that they're familiar with," Reid said.

Defensively, simplicity likely will rule, too.

"You try to allow your guys to play fast. Sometimes, when your players have to think, it takes away from their speed and their God-given talents," McDermott said. "We're going to try to play fast and physical."

"Maybe we'll see something that they haven't shown," safety Quintin Mikell said. "But I want to play ball." *