Eagles’ D aims to send Rodgers packing
Birds’ defense intends to send Rodgers packing
PHILADELPHIA >> With apologies to Aaron Rodgers and his cornball insurance commercials, no one comes into the Eagles’ house without paying the price.
The Birds are 4-0 at Lincoln Financial Field thanks largely to the crowd noise, a fierce pass rush and the energy all of it creates.
“We have a big advantage at home when teams have to go on a silent count,” said Eagles defensive end Connor Barwin, who has registered three of his four sacks at the Linc. “That’s a big advantage for us upfront as a D-line. It gives us a jump on the cadence. We’re an attack front so if we can really get that extra step and that jump it makes a difference.”
Then there are the Green Bay Packers and Rodgers, who oppose the Eagles here Monday (8:30 p.m., ESPN, Channel 6, WIP 94.1-FM).
The Packers (4-6) are freefalling, their four-game losing streak adding to the scrutiny of head coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson. That duo should hold off on big ticket purchases for awhile considering the Eagles’ dominance at home.
Rodgers nonetheless sounds oblivious to the danger lurking ahead. He told media covering the team he felt the Packers could run the table.
To do that the Pack would have to start with a win over the Eagles (5-5), who are a tad more relevant in the hunt for a playoff berth.
“It’s definitely a big game for both teams,” Rodgers said. “Their division, obviously Dallas is playing really well. Us, we’re two games back right now … This time of year you’ve got to be moving in the right direction. We’ve got to turn this streak around and get going back in the right direction.”
The Eagles have destroyed teams at the Linc, outscoring them 108-38. In just four games the defense has registered 15 sacks and eight takeaways.
Players typically deny looking at the standings and the teams ahead of them in the playoff chase. Others are open and honest about it.
Eagles cornerback Leodis McKelvin, back in the lineup after a mild concussion, noted that the three outcomes the Eagles needed to happen on Thanksgiving occurred. The Dallas Cowboys (101) defeated the Washington Redskins (6-4-1) and the Detroit Lions (7-4) beat the Minnesota Vikings (6-5). The Cowboys basically have the division wrapped up, meaning the Eagles are chasing the New York Giants (7-3), who won Sunday, as well as the Redskins.
“We control our own destiny,” McKelvin said. “We’ve just got to go out there and win. We’re undefeated at home. We’ve got six games left. We’re in a situation where we have some control. Coming out with this home crowd, it’s going to be crazy. We’re just going to come out and do what we’ve got to do to give the fans what they want … a win.”
The alternative for the Eagles would be rolling into Cincinnati, where they’ve never won. The Eagles are 0-3-1 there, the infamous tie coming there in 2008, then quarterback Donovan McNabb complaining that he thought there would be a second overtime.
Rest assured Rodgers knows the overtime rule. He’s been known to crank up a game-winning desperation pass or two.
Though the Packers’ defense is struggling — the outfit getting scorched for 47 and 42 points in consecutive weeks — Rodgers, even when he’s required to play catch-up, poses a tough challenge for any defense.
“He’s running to throw,” Barwin said. “But he definitely has always had the capability to pull it down and run. You’re playing so much coverage and there’s some man-to-man situations where everybody’s backs are turned and it’s all right there for him to run. We’ve seen that on tape. And he’s a smart guy. He recognizes that man coverage and when the rush breaks down and there’s a big gap he’s going to take advantage of it.
“I think they’re still running the ball but they’re missing Eddie Lacy.”
The Eagles have injuries of their own, starting at running back where Ryan Mathews (knee) is out and Darren Sproles is playing with a flak jacket to protect a cracked rib. That leaves Kenjon Barner and rookie Wendell Smallwood to do the heavy lifting.
“I’m going to embrace it,” Smallwood said. “It’s a challenge and it’s a great opportunity for me to take advantage of it and show what I can do and show I can take on a bigger role. I definitely think I’m that kind of running back that gets better and starts to wear them down. I think I just get comfortable, that’s all it is. My first couple carries are just feeling it out. Once I start to slow it down and get those runs going, I think I’m better.”
The Green Bay pass defense has become increasingly vulnerable to deep throws. The injury situation is so fluid the depth chart is ever-changing.
Jordan Matthews, who leads the Eagles with 53 receptions for 639 yards and three touchdowns, anticipates rookie quarterback Carson Wentz taking chances throwing deep down the field.
“I know the Redskins went vertical” against Green Bay, Matthews said. “I think right now, teams have made an emphasis to go vertical on them. They do have some young cornerbacks who are getting better as I’ve watched games. At the same time, we have to go out there confidently and say when we have these chances to take shots, we’ve got to roll the dice and we’ve got to go make them … and build confidence.”
On the drama front, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson has said he’ll wait until game time to decide whether to activate embattled wide receiver Nelson Agholor and rookie wide receiver Paul Turner … or both.
That might not be as big of a factor as the pass rush getting after Rodgers, who works the pocket better than any quarterback.
“You can always look at a game and say whatever defense plays better is going to win,” Barwin said. “So we want to be the better defense Monday night.
“It’s a huge game. Monday night at our stadium, a lot on the line, we’re wearing all-black uniforms. Obviously there’s a lot to be excited about.”
Eagles defensive end Connor Barwin (98), shown sacking Giants quarterback Eli Manning, said that crowd noise at Lincoln Financial Field gives the Birds an advantage against opposing defenses.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is confident the Green Bay Packers can save their season in a hostile environment against Philadelphia on Sunday, a team that hasn’t lost at home.