PHILADELPHIA - The Eagles defense may have played its best game of the season last week in the 17-9 win over the Dallas Cowboys.
Dallas had the NFL’s top-ranked offense coming in but couldn’t find a way to get into the end zone and settled for just three field goals.
Asked afterward if he thought it was the best game by the defense this season, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said: “Hmm … it was a good game by us. The best? I don’t know. We did what we needed to do to win.”
They did what they needed to in order to beat Washington the week before, stopping the Redskins after quarterback fumbled the ball at the Philly 33 late in the fourth quarter. The defense, which had allowed points on each Redskins possession after each Eagles score, forced a field goal and helped the Eagles come back to win, 37-27.
It doesn’t have to be pretty, and it certainly wasn’t against the New York Giants nearly three weeks ago, when the defense gave up two big passing plays for touchdowns to fall behind 17-3 only to play a stellar second half, holding New York to just 29 total yards to allow the offense to pull out a 23-17 win in overtime.
It has all led to a three-game winning streak, the Eagles’ longest of the season, and a chance to win the NFC East on Sunday in Meadowlands.
Here are three under-the-radar defenders during this streak:
The obvious plays the cornerback has made a difference on are the third-and-three pass break up to New York’s Darius Slayton shortly after the Eagles had tied the score at 17-17 late in regulation, a play that helped get the game into overtime, and the pass break up in end zone to Michael Gallup on fourth down with 1:21 to play in the win over the Cowboys.
“It hasn't just been one or two plays,” said defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz on Tuesday. “He's been a consistent player and made tackles when he’s needed to. I've been very proud of him.”
The defensive end has really come on strong lately. Three of his five sacks this season have come in the last three games and he is now second on the team in that category behind Brandon Graham’s 7.5.
“He's just been tenacious,” said Schwartz. “His sacks have been effort sacks, and that's always been a hallmark of Vinny. He's a tough player, he gives great effort, and he's been rewarded with that on some of those plays; some big plays for us.”
The linebacker was inactive with an ankle injury for four games, returning against the Seattle Seahawks on Nov. 24.
He has made 13 tackles in the past three games and has played all but one snap in that time. He even had a 47-yard fumble return for a touchdown as time expired in the win over Washington.
“I think Nigel has been consistent over probably about the last month or so, really since he back from his injury,” said Schwartz. “Nigel is a guy that gives us a lot of fire and plays with a lot of emotion. You need that from a middle linebacker. He's done that for us.”