PHILADELPHIA — While Sam Bradford and the offense have struggled, an under-rated defense is quietly doing its job for the Philadelphia Eagles.
The defenders are No. 1 against the run, playing better against the pass and creating turnovers. Since Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the Falcons lit them up for 20 points in the first half of the season opener, they've been downright stingy.
The Eagles allowed only two field goals in the second half of a 26-24 loss to Atlanta. They gave up 13 points in a 20-10 loss to Dallas, which also scored on special teams. Then they held the Jets scoreless while building a 24-0 lead before holding on for a 24-17 win.
"We're getting a lot of consistent play," coach Chip Kelly said. "What we're asking our guys to do, they are doing on the defensive side of the ball."
The run defense is fourth-best in the NFL in yards, giving up 87 per game. Opponents are averaging only 3.1 yards per carry, lowest in the league. No team has a rushing touchdown against the Eagles.
"It starts with the D-Line," defensive coordinator Billy Davis said. "You watch these guys hit the sled every day, and it shows up on Sundays. They are striking with their hands, they are reading their keys, they are doing a great job with it and it's real tough to run on us right now because of the consistency of the technique that the inside guys are playing, and then behind them, you are looking at some real disciplined linebackers."
The Eagles were missing defensive tackle Cedric Thornton (hand) and linebackers Kiko Alonso (knee) and Mychal Kendricks (hamstring) against the Jets. But rookies Jordan Hicks and Eric Rowe and backup Brandon Bair each made big plays. Hicks and Rowe had interceptions and Bair tipped a pass that led to a pick.
Overall, the defense forced four turnovers against New York and has eight takeaways in three games. They have at least one takeaway in nine straight games and 21 over that span.
"That's what makes you a great team, when everybody starts to make plays," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "You're not depending on one or two guys to get you out of a hole or win you a game. Everybody is contributing and I think that makes your team stronger because people can't gameplan for you. That allows us, defensively, to just do so much."
NOTES: Alonso, Thornton and DE Taylor Hart (shoulder) were rule out for Sunday's game at Washington. RB DeMarco Murray (hamstring), LB Mychal Kendricks (hamstring). LT Jason Peters (quadriceps) and S Chris Maragos (quadriceps) are questionable.
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