CHARLOTTE - Chicken Little took up a residency in Philadelphia this week and “the sky is falling” theme was the narrative for Jonathan Gannon’s defense, a supposed talent-deficient group that had given up 76 points and 851 total yards over the past two weeks.
Gannon went from boy wonder who saved the organization from Jim Schwartz to wet-behind-the-ears neophyte, dooming the fan base to what they hate most: the polar opposite of Buddy Ryan’s legendary aggression.
Nick Sirianni had “tough conversations” with Gannon and his staff last week, Fletcher Cox grumbled about the 4i-technique, and Darius Slay was probably telling tales of his man coverage success to his baby boy born earlier this week while shaking his head over how much cover-2 he has seen.
What was missing in all the negativity was the context of the offenses faced over the prior two weeks - Nos. 3 and 2 in the NFL in Dallas and Kansas City.
On Sunday in Charlotte, Patrick Mahomes and Dak Prescott along with their high-powered offenses turned into Sam Darnold and the Carolina Panthers. Voila, just like that the worst defense in the world turned into world-beaters with three sacks, eight quarterback hurries, six tackles for losses, and three interceptions in a 21-18 comeback win.
“Great job of just the dawg mentality of our defensive players and our defensive staff,” Sirianni said of his defense. They played a great game. We had 3 turnovers and (3 sacks), all on third down. They just came together and played a great game.
“That’s what this league is about. You’re not going to play your best game every week. It’s about starting again, and starting again, and starting again. That’s dawg mentality. That’s going to be the same message this week.”
Gannon is expected to speak to reporters on Tuesday in a short week with the Buccaneers visiting on Thursday night.
He made some tweaks, though.
He got Davion Taylor on the field more, mainly in a package with T.J. Edwards to help the run support. The DC allowed Slay to travel more with Panthers star receiver D.J. Moore and there was a little more blitzing for a defense that had ranked 32nd in the league coming in when it came to sending an extra man.
But the market correction, which was entirely predictable, was the competition.
Darnold and the Panthers just aren’t capable of putting up numbers like the Eagles’ prior two opponents. And that deserves the context pointed out as well.
On Thursday, the Eagles face the reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and you might be back to a shootout environment. Moving forward from there it’s back to the mean with slight tweaks up and down depending on the week.
What the Eagles’ defense proved against the Panthers is that it can carry its own water in a typical NFL environment.
“It’s the ultimate team sport,” Edwards said. “You need everybody at all times to be at their best. When one side is not, the other side has to pick them up. Just like it’s going to happen other ways in other games."
In a larger sense when it comes to the Eagles defense the sky was never really falling to begin with. It just ran up against Prescott and Mahomes in consecutive weeks.
-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.