Jonathan Gannon's Defense Under Pressure

The first-year defensive coordinator talked about adjustments in Dallas loss, and now faces a different kind of test in the Kansas City Chiefs
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PHILADELPHIA – Remember when the Eagles were tied for second in fewest points allowed, surrendering just two touchdowns in two games? Good times, those.

Then the Dallas Cowboys came along and sent the Eagles into a free fall with a 41-point, five-touchdown outburst on Monday night, with the 59-yard interception return by Trevon Diggs not counting on the defense’s ledger.

Now come the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, a team with even more explosive weapons. The downward spiral may not be over.

As safety Anthony Harris so succinctly put it on Wednesday when comparing the Cowboys and Chiefs: “Dallas has some weapons, but if you look at the two teams, Dallas probably looks like they want to run the ball and get explosive plays with play-action.

“Kansas City kind wants to sling it around a little more, whether that’s straight drop back or whether that’s a little bit of play-action, but they want to push the ball downfield.”

It starts with that Patrick Mahomes fellow and runs through offensive threats Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.

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Jonathan Gannon isn’t hitting the panic.

In fact, the Eagles’ defensive coordinator was happy to be out of what he called the “panic room” when he spoke on Wednesday. Usually, Gannon is sequestered inside a room set up to conduct his press interviews virtually on Tuesday, but with the short work week, Gannon did his Q&A in person a day later.

Needless to say, though, he wasn’t overly happy with the way his defense played or the way he and his staff adjusted.

“I think just we didn't do enough to put - on our side of the ball - to put our team in a position to be competitive and win the game,” said Gannon. “When you do that, you feel bad. We got a lot of adjustments to make, and we've got to get better in a hurry because we've got a good team coming in here on Sunday.”

Much is made of head coach Nick Sirianni being a first-time head coach first-time play-caller, but it’s the same deal with Gannon, and he, too, is growing in his role.

The Cowboys moved the ball at will up and down the field. They invaded the red one on their first four possessions to open a 20-7 lead by halftime

On their first, they motored 75 yards in six very easy-looking plays for a touchdown that took just 3 minutes, 13 seconds to achieve. Dallas blasted into the red zone again on its next possession but was turned away at the goal line.

Undeterred, the Cowboys went right back into the red area on its third possession and scored a touchdown to open a 14-7 lead and the rout was on. It was more of the same on the next drive, too, this one was a 13-play, 65-yard march that consumed 7:50 and surely tested the lungs of the Eagles’ defense.

By halftime, Dallas had 118 yards rushing.

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Gannon tried to explain the in-game adjustments that he and his staff made.

“We kind of say, all right, well - and that's kind of set up through the week; here is the first couple series how we think it's going to go; what adjustments do we make,” he said. “If we're playing good, do we stay with it or do we get to this next counter punch. 

"But as the game goes, the ebb and flow of the game, ‘Alright, well they just went right down the field and scored. What do we need to get to? What do we need to do? How do I need to call it differently? Who's struggling out there? Are we stopping the run? Is the ball going over our heads?’"

Those adjustments, he said, are made series to series, at halftime, and from quarter to quarter.

Gannon added, “That all plays into when we come off talking to our players first, and then looking at the plan, and with the coaches on the headsets saying, ‘Alright, let's get to this,’ or ‘Hey, let's keep doing what we're doing. We've just got to play the techniques a little bit better.’ Or this one route was open. Well, get with the guy that, ‘Hey, you've got to play this, this way.’

“...It's an ever-evolving constant adjustment period as far as communication with our guys and with the coaches.”

Whatever adjustments were made or not made seemed to work, at least a little bit, because the Cowboys' offense still tacked on another touchdown, with a third coming from Dallas' defense.

More adjustments will be needed going forward, starting with an explosive Kansas City Chiefs offense on Sunday.

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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.