Schwartz Defends Call That Led to Steve Smith TD: ‘Not Trying to Allow a FG'

The Eagles were 16 seconds away from going into halftime with a lead on Sunday until Steve Smith Sr. caught a 34-yard touchdown pass. 

It put the Ravens up by six and they never trailed again in the Eagles’ 27-26 loss in Baltimore. 

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“We’re not trying to allow a field goal,” defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “The second that our calls are designed to let people get in field goal range, is the second you’re going to find somebody else standing up here.”

The Eagles’ defense was somewhat aggressive on the play, overloading the rush because the Ravens were max protecting. That left rookie Jalen Mills 1-on-1 against Smith on the play and safety Jaylen Watkins was late providing help. 

After the game, Mills and safety Malcolm Jenkins questioned the coverage call. 

“We have a new system,” Schwartz joked on Tuesday. “I’m going to take the earpiece out of Jordan Hicks’ head and I’m going to put it in Jalen’s, so Jalen can approve of every call we make from now on before it gets relayed to the defense. 

“I love the hell out of that kid. He is a competitor. People talk about speed, people talk about ability to play the ball. To me, the No. 1 criteria to play corner is you have to be a competitor and he is. He has given up some plays this year. He’s made some plays and given up some. But he’s never let it affect his psyche. 

“Actually, at halftime, I told those guys, hey blame me for that call. And the reason I said it was because I didn’t want them to play conservative in the second half. But looking back, there’s a lot of calls you’d like to have back in the game. The call wasn’t the issue there, it was the execution. He understands that. He knows. We’ve had conversations and we talked a little bit yesterday. But I’ll stand behind Jalen Mills.”

Watkins was the safety on that side of the field and Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco got him to jump on a pump fake. Watkins is in his third year in the NFL but his first playing safety. Schwartz said it was a “rookie mistake” from Watkins. 

“I don’t like to blame execution on a play, but I know [Watkins] would like to have that back,” Schwartz said. 

Schwartz said the thinking on that play was that with 16 seconds left, the Eagles didn’t want the Ravens to get a field goal. The Eagles used man coverage with two safeties deep. They also played outside technique because the Ravens were out of timeouts and a play that didn’t get out of bounds could potentially end the half. 

While it might have looked like the Eagles decided to blitz, Schwartz said they didn't. The Ravens players that Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham were supposed to cover stayed in to block, so they rushed.

Instead of playing to give up a field goal, the Eagles stayed aggressive and tried to keep any points off the board. It backfired and the Ravens ended up with a big 34-yard touchdown pass. 

But on Tuesday, Schwartz defended the call. 

“I’ll sit up here and take the questions all day long rather than have played soft zone coverage, give them 10 yards, they kick a field goal at the end of the first half,” Schwartz said. “And that weather gets bad in the second half or the score gets changed and all of a sudden we lose a close game because of that attitude. We’re going to live and die based on being aggressive and I think all those guys understand that. There’s frustration involved. There’s 16 seconds left, nobody wants to give up a play right there. And we didn’t blitz. We actually played the same coverage we had a sack-strip to set up the touchdown. They were max protecting a lot, we were adding guys to the coverage.”

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