Eagles' Defense Is Special? Time to Really Show It

You go into it assuming your offense isn't going to get you 30 points. This is playoff football. And we're all realistic enough to understand that even if Nick Foles gets his act together, the Eagles are going to open the postseason against a very good defense.

The Saints finished the regular season No. 10 in points allowed at 19.1 per game, the Falcons No. 8 at 18.8, and the Panthers No. 11 at 19.6 points per game.

The Eagles are No. 4 on that list at 17.1, a number that drops to 12.5 at the Linc.

This is an elite defense, and it will have to be on Jan. 13 and for as long as the Eagles remain alive in the postseason.

That's the reality the Eagles find themselves in. With Carson Wentz, they could win games 37-23. Now, they just don't have that kind of luxury.

So unless Foles magically turns the clock back to 2013, this defense will have to carry the team.

Which it's certainly capable of doing.

"Regardless of who we have at quarterback, everybody understands that the running game and defense is what carries you to the playoffs, if you don't have one of those top-three, elite quarterbacks," Malcolm Jenkins said.

"We're going to have to be able to run the ball and we're going to have to be able to play defense and get those takeaways that we've been getting all year and play well against the run. That goes without saying."

A couple things about this defense:

• It allowed 31 touchdowns this year, fewer than two per game. That's fourth fewest in the NFL this year and one more than it allowed in the average Jim Johnson season from 2000 through 2008.

• At home, it allowed an NFL-low 11 touchdowns, fewer than 1½ per game. And four of those 11 came on short fields - drives of 21, 33, 52 and 55 yards. So in eight games at the Linc, it allowed just seven touchdown drives longer than 60 yards. And three of those came with the Eagles already up 21 points.

• Even with the Giants and Redskins both scoring 24 points at the Linc earlier this year (both with one short-field TD), the Eagles allowed the ninth-fewest home points by any NFL team over the last decade.

• In their last five home games, the Eagles allowed just 45 points and four touchdowns. Granted, they weren't facing elite offenses, but that's still very high-level defense.

Will it be enough to carry the Eagles to a win? Or two? Or even three?

Over the last 20 years, teams allowing fewer than 20 points are 150-35 in the postseason and teams doing it at home are 88-17.

They have a chance. But only if this defense is elite.

The Eagles finished the regular season ranked fourth in yards allowed, first in rushing yards allowed, third on third down, fourth in points allowed, fourth in takeaways, seventh in passing yards per play and fifth in first downs allowed.

One concern: For the second year in a row, the sack numbers dropped off. Last year, the Eagles had 20 sacks the first six games, 14 in the last 10. This year, they had 29 the first 10 games, nine in the last six.

Nonetheless, this defense is special. It endured a little bump against the Rams and Giants, but it was exceptional before and has been since.

The Eagles won't be favored next Saturday unless they face the Falcons, but this defense gives them a chance to win any game.

Nobody is coming into the Linc and scoring 30 points.

So it's up to the offense to be at least functional to the point in which the defense has a chance to shine.

"I don't care if you were starting at quarterback, you should be confident," Jenkins said.

"We have an opportunity to win and put ourselves deep into the playoffs. We win one game, we're in the NFC Championship at home.

"I don't care who we got at quarterback, who we've got on offense. We'll take those odds."

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