Eagles: No problems with defense
Mychal Kendricks watched the Atlanta Falcons' first scoring drive from the sideline during Sunday's 30-17 Eagles loss.
The rookie linebacker, who was benched for the first 16 plays because he was late to a Friday meeting, was on the field for the Falcons' remaining 23 points.
Yet Kendricks did not seem to think the defense had fallen apart. Kendricks, one of the most important parts of the defense, seemed to think all the problems are fixable.
"A couple mishaps, a couple plays here and there, nothing too serious," Kendricks said Sunday after the game. "Nothing we can't fix."
When told that allowing points on six straight possessions to start the game seemed like more than a couple of errors, Kendricks did not waver.
"It was just a couple missed plays," Kendricks said. "We gave too many penalties, which kept them in the position to make those plays. And then we missed the plays that we needed to make. It's just a couple of things here and there."
Kendricks' response was not isolated. Cedric Thornton, a defensive tackle who took nearly half of the defensive snaps on Sunday and recorded a sack, said, "There's nothing wrong with our defense" and attributed two of the Falcons touchdowns to poor calls by the officials that extended Atlanta's drives.
Around the locker room Sunday, there were players from the Eagles defense whose public stance was that a defense that allowed 392 yards and did not force a turnover does not have major issues.
It shows that the Eagles' problem might go beyond poor tackling, poor pass rushing, and poor coverage. There also seems to be a dose of illusion.
"No, not at all," Thornton said, when asked again if there's an issue with the defense. Asked about the 24 points allowed in the first half, Thornton responded, "The referee gave them 14 points."
Thornton even rejected the idea that the Eagles came out flat. He instead credited the Falcons offense and said Atlanta was the better team that day.
Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who was beaten for a deep touchdown, did not think the problems on Sunday were problems that have happened before. But missed tackles, penalties, and busted coverages were problems in previous games this season.
"I didn't see any confusion," Asomugha said. "We haven't tackled poorly. We haven't covered poorly, [and] we haven't had the issues even in the run-game with those long plays. So we're just doing things that we haven't really done all year."
The one point of universal agreement among the players was that the Eagles' errors were not the fault of new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, whose debut calling an NFL game went nearly as poorly as possible.
Coaching was blamed during the bye week after Juan Castillo's dismissal. But what's clear is that the personnel and the scheme are more at issue than the person calling the plays. Bowles was resolute after the game that the problems will be fixed, and that will be the goal this week.
"You're going to have some ups and downs in this business," Bowles said Sunday. "You're frustrated today. I'm [ticked] off, and that's how we should be. I don't like losing. I'm a sore loser."
Even if the opinion is not widespread in the locker room, the Eagles defense needs fixing. The message has been sent with Castillo's firing, with reduced playing time for starters such as Jason Babin, and with the embarrassment on Sunday.
"Everyone gets that we're in a pretty tight situation," Thornton said. "But there's nothing we can do. If we can do magic tricks to come up with a win, we'd do that. But it's the NFL. Any given Sunday, any team can win. We're just trying to get ready for New Orleans. We had the Falcons. That's over with. It's in the past, and we're looking at the future."
Contact Zach Berman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @ZBerm on Twitter.