By Chris Murray
For the NFC'Easter
If there has been one constant or one thing that Eagles fans have depended upon during the Andy Reid era in Philadelphia is that they will attack and force turnovers on defense.
Even though they were the third best defense in the NFL last season, folks were wondering how good would the Birds be on the defensive side ball, especially considering the season-ending injury to middle linebacker Stewart Bradley and they have a rookie in Macho Harris playing at the free safety spot.
In the their 38-10 rout of the Carolina Panthers, the Eagles defense set the tone of the game by forcing seven turnovers and scoring a touchdown. The Birds intercepted Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme five times and forced two fumbles. They held the Panthers to just 169 yards of total offense and stymied their highly-regarded rushing attack and limited them to a mere 86 yards. It was the most turnovers the team has forced in the last nine years.
“We just went out and executed. We didn't know exactly what they would do. We had an idea, but the first game of the season you don't know what a team will do so you want to go out there and play hard football and we did that today,” said defensive end Victor Abiamiri, who scored on a two-yard fumble return for a touchdown that was set up by a Trent Cole sack of Delhomme in the second quarter.
The only thing that casts a cloud over the Eagles win is the rib injury to quarterback Donovan McNabb, who is listed as doubtful for next week's home-opener against the New Orleans Saints at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. McNabb's injury came in the third quarter when he scored on a three-yard run.
Coming off a five-interception performance in a NFC Divisional Playoff loss to the Arizona Cardinals, Delhomme had another difficult outing at the hands of the Birds defense. New Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, who learned his lessons well from the late Jim Johnson, unleashed hell on Delhomme and held him to just 7-of-17 passing for 73 yards and four interceptions and sacked him five times.
“I thought he had a good game plan. I thought the defensive staff did a nice job. I thought the players played like crazy. I was proud of that group,” Reid said.
With all the noise that came from him wanting to renegotiate his contract, cornerback Sheldon Brown came up with a pair of interceptions including one that led to an Eagles touchdown. He said it was important to jump on Delhomme and the Panthers offense early.
“I think we had some things going early. I can remember some of the years where we were able to create turnovers, like Trent Cole, hit the quarterback,” Brown said. “Where in the past on opening day the other team would recover it. Today, we happened to be able to recover fumbles and catch the football in the back of the end zone.”
The Eagles defense, for now, answered all the questions that was hovering them at the outset of the season. The next big test for the Birds will be a New Orleans Saints squad that can put the points on the board.
“We understand we haven't accomplished anything. This is a long season. If we win this one and lose the rest then it's not going to mean anything. We have a veteran group in the locker room and we're going to continue to work,” Brown said.