Eight smothering weeks now for the Eagles' defense
An Eagles defense that could not get out of its own way in the first month of the season has now played eight consecutive games in which it has allowed 21 points or fewer. Eight is a lot; this just in -- and especially when you consider that the average NFL team is scoring 23.3 points per game this season.
You see something like that and you start looking back. The fairest way to compare defenses over the years is to see how they perform relative to the league average. The truth is, even when you do that, there is plenty of room for argument. That said, here a couple of observations:
The 1991 Eagles defense is probably the most celebrated in franchise history because it won the mythical triple crown that year -- No. 1 in the NFL in rushing yards allowed, passing yards allowed and total yards allowed. But in an era when teams were scoring only 19.0 points per game, that defense never had a streak of more than four games at or below the league average. Overall, it had 13 games at or below the average. In the season after Buddy Ryan was fired and Bud Carson was brought in as defensive coordinator, this obviously was a smothering bunch -- Reggie White, Jerome Brown, Clyde Simmons, Seth Joyner, Eric Allen, you know.
Even acknowledging that, the 2001 Eagles defense might have been better overall. At a time when teams averaged 20.2 points per game, those Eagles never allowed more than 21 points in a game all season -- not once. They had one 10-game stretch of that season where they were below that 20.2 average every week -- 9, 20, 7, 17, 3, 13, 10, 14, 6 and 13. Just stunning.
Also, consider the era from 2001-2004, the absolute apex of Andy Reid’s time in Philadelphia. In those four seasons, the Eagles allowed 21 or fewer points in 54 out of the 64 regular season games played. It is half of the reason why defensive coordinator Jim Johnson is so revered by the people who knew him and played for him; the other half is because of the person he was.
This year’s defense, led by coordinator Bill Davis, is not those defenses. But in an era when scoring in the NFL has never been higher, the run here is getting interesting. Kansas City had nine straight below the league average to open the season (but none since). Carolina -- with Johnson disciple Sean McDermott as coordinator -- has 10 in a row below the average and 11 for the season.
But this Eagles defense is next with eight in a row. Some of it was the happenstance of scheduling and quarterback quality, but only some -- and as the streak gets longer, that stuff evens out. The real test, though, is upon them. Three of the four remaining teams on their schedule -- the Lions, Bears and Cowboys -- are third, fourth and second, respectively, in NFL scoring this season.
If the Eagles can hold them down, too, history really will take notice.