Eagles better on defense, but can't sack the QB

Associated Press Modified: October 12, 2012 at 5:16 am •  Published: October 12, 2012
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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Eli Manning didn't get dirty and Ben Roethlisberger never went down against the Eagles the past two weeks.

Playing quarterback seems like a safe job for Philadelphia's opponents.

Those ferocious pass rushers aren't producing sacks the way they're used to, but the Eagles (3-2) are getting results on the scoreboard anyway.

"The bottom line for our defense is that it's not about stats, sacks, or trying to give up less than 17 points or any of those things," defensive coordinator Juan Castillo said Thursday. "The bottom line for us is to get the win no matter what."

The Eagles have just seven sacks in five games, fewer than all but three teams. That's a drastic drop for a defense that tied for first in the NFL with 50 sacks last year.

Manning wasn't even hit in Philadelphia's 19-17 victory over the New York Giants on Sept. 30. Roethlisberger had plenty of time to throw, especially on the final drive, and wasn't sacked in a 16-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday.

The Eagles haven't registered a sack in the last nine quarters and are on pace for a franchise-low 22.

Despite their inability to put quarterbacks on the ground, the Eagles are getting it done on defense. They're eighth in total yards (307.2) and 10th in points allowed (19.8). At this point last year, they had 16 sacks, but were 15th in yards (352.0) and 28th in points allowed (26.4). They also were last in the division with a 1-4 record.

"It's all about not letting guys get into the end zone," middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. "That's the biggest thing for us, not giving up touchdowns, holding guys. If they're down there, holding them to three points if possible. The focus of this game is winning. That's the only thing we care about. Sacks, blitzing, all that stuff, it doesn't matter to me. As long as we outscore our opponents, that's all I care about."

Jason Babin had 18 sacks last year on his way to his second straight Pro Bowl, and two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Trent Cole added 11. The two speed rushers thrived in defensive line coach Jim Washburn's wide-nine system. This year, however, Cole and Babin have four combined sacks. They totaled 11 through Week 5 in 2011.

A main reason why they haven't been getting as many sacks is blocking. Offenses are using maximum protection against Philadelphia's front four. Even when the Eagles don't blitz, teams are using seven or eight blockers and they're chipping the ends.

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