Intra-squad rivalries between an offense and defense are common around the NFL, which is usually enflamed when a team is not doing well.
Such questions arose on Tuesday following the Eagles’ 22-17 loss on Sunday to the Cleveland Browns, but Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz quickly shot down such suggestions.
“That’s not even in our mentality,” he said. “I think any team would tell you the same thing. Our goal is one thing and that’s to win the game. That could be 7-3, that could be 38-37, we know that’s the only important thing is getting a win.”
The Eagles’ defense has hardly been the issue, allowing 22 points or fewer in three of their previous four games. Most of the pressure has been placed squarely on the shoulders of quarterback Carson Wentz, who is miring through his worst season as a pro.
“That’s the only thing we concentrate on. Part of being a resilient team, a tough team, is being able to persevere through tough times. It’s not all easy, it’s not all doing the electric slide,” Schwartz said. “There’s going to come some times where you have to battle through injury situations or some situations in which one side of the ball is struggling. The offense has picked us up plenty of times, we’ve picked the offense up. We look at it as it’s our job and we can do more.”
Among Schwartz’s top priorities to address in Week 12 against the Seattle Seahawks is their star wide receiver, DK Metcalf, who already has 48 catches for 862 yards and nine touchdowns.
In just his second year, the 6-foot-4 talent has quickly become one of the best pass-catchers in football to go with his reputation as one of the more built receivers.
It will certainly provide a difficult challenge for Eagles top cornerback, Darius Slay, who is often the man looked upon to shut down the opposition’s top playmaker.
“[Metcalf] so big and his arms are so long and things like that,” Schwartz said. “Slay has generally been handling guys like that whether it’s AJ Green or any of these other guys… He has those long arms, he can poke balls away.”
But Metcalf possesses the ability to succeed in any scenario — as a slot receiver or a deep threat.
“It’s a great challenge for us. It’s not just getting him covered, it’s tackling him,” Schwartz said. “You have to defend every inch of the field with a guy like that. They can just throw a zero hitch to him… and just get him the ball and he’s hard to handle… He’s like a running back.”
“He also has the speed to go deep so it’s a great challenge for us. Just watching him and having played him a couple times in the last year and watch him develop… I think he’s a much-improved player in working with the quarterback and understanding [Seahawks quarterback] Russell Wilson’s scrambles and how to get open.”
“It’s not just about running your route when it does break down and you have a quarterback who can scramble, being on the same page as him and knowing what spot you want to get to, and he seems to be a much-improved player doing that. That’s a lot of things: Number 1, Getting him tackled on short routes, getting him covered on deep balls, and also staying with him on plays that are extended. We’re going to have to do all three things to limit him. ”
The Eagles need a victory on Sunday to ensure that they keep their lead atop the NFC East.
At 3-6-1, they hold a half-game lead over the New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, and Washington Football Team.
The Cowboys and Washington play each other on Thanksgiving Day while the Giants play a Joe Burrow-less Cincinnati Bengals side on Sunday.
That means the only way the Eagles will be able to keep their spot atop the division is by upsetting the Seahawks, which is a tall order considering how they’ve played over the last two weeks.
Schwartz, though, says that now is the time for his team to get tough.
“I don’t think anyone looks at a season and says, ‘Well this isn’t going well, this is the way we need to handle it.’ You’re in the moment every week, you’re competing every single week,” he said. “Every single week is a new challenge and you have to keep your eyes on that and you have to be able to persevere through great times, big wins, bounce back from a big loss. You look across the NFL, it’s not always just ‘Oh happy times’ for great teams.”
“You have to be resilient enough to know that it’s not always going to go your way… This league rewards people who are perseverent, people who persevere, people who are tough-minded.”