When talking about quarterback sacks, coaches and players are fond of saying that when they come, they often come in bunches.
Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has been moved to say that more than a few times lately when reporters have grilled him about his unit’s sack problems.
But he won’t need to say it this week. Not after the Eagles racked up 10 sacks in Sunday’s lopsided 31-6 win over the hapless New York Jets.
“Today was fun, man," said defensive end Brandon Graham, who had a career-high three sacks. “Today, we talked about having a party. And we went out there and actually had a party."
Only time will tell how meaningful this party was. The Jets, who fell to 0-4, are a really, really bad team.
Their offensive line isn’t very good, and with their franchise quarterback, Sam Darnold, still recuperating from his bout with mononucleosis, and his backup, Trevor Siemian, out for the season with an ankle injury, Luke Falk, who is only slightly more mobile than the Rocky statue, made just his second career start.
But hey, 10 sacks are 10 sacks. For a unit that had just three of them in the first four games and was on pace to give up more passing yards than any defense in league history, it needed something positive to latch on to, and 10 sacks are very positive.
“Y’all were harsh on us, but it’s all good,’’ Graham said with that ever-present smile of his. “I’m just happy we won today and finally got in that (sack) column in a big way. We were tired of not getting sacks. I’m just excited for what’s to come. Because sacks come in bunches. We were out there living the dream today and having fun.’’
The 10 sacks were the most by the Eagles since 2007, when they also put up 10 in a 56-21 win over the Detroit Lions. Not to be a killjoy, but that ’07 team had just 22 more sacks in their next 13 games after that 10-sack performance and missed the playoffs with an 8-8 record. Just sayin’.
Schwartz needs Sunday’s performance to carry over into the next six weeks when the Eagles are going to face much better offenses than the one they faced Sunday and much better quarterbacks than Falk.
Seven different players registered sacks against the Jets. Besides Graham and his three sacks, cornerback Orlando Scandrick, who was just re-signed by the Eagles last week after being cut in late August, had two, including one in which he stripped the ball from Falk and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown. Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat, Vinny Curry, Hassan Ridgeway and Daeshon Hall each had one sack.
“I’m just trying to carve out a role for myself,’’ said Sweat, a second-year defensive end who was taken by the Eagles in the fourth round of the 2018 draft. “I just had it in my mind today, just go. I wrote it on my little wrist tape. Just go. And I just went.
“I didn’t want to be left out. I said I’m gonna go get it. I said, if it’s a double-team, if it’s a chipper, I’m going to go get it anyway. I’m going.’’
Graham came into Sunday’s game with a team-high 26 quarterback pressures. He had 23 hurries, but just three hits and no sacks.
“As a d-lineman, that’s the dream,’’ Graham said. “Hit him as many times as you can. Sack him as many times as you can. Hitting him is cool, but actually getting him down and changing the field position is special.
“I’m just happy I was able to get him on the ground today. I don’t know how many times I’ve come close this season.’’
Schwartz slid Graham inside a lot against the Jets, much like he did during the Eagles’ Super Bowl season when he had a career-high 9 ½ sacks and recorded the most important quarterback sack in franchise history -- that fourth-quarter strip-sack of Tom Brady in Super Bowl LII, which, you may recall, came on an inside rush.
“I haven’t played inside all year,’’ Graham said. “But we just figured we might as well go back to what was working in 2017. I’m happy with the way it started off today.’’
Two of Graham’s three sacks came from the inside. All three came on third down.
On a third-and-nine on the Jets’ first possession, Graham lined up inside and sacked Falk, forcing them to punt. It was the first time this season that the Eagles didn’t give up points on an opponent’s first possession.
On a fourth-and-one play near midfield on the Jets’ second possession, Falk tried to run a bootleg option to the right. But Graham read it, got in his face and forced a hurried throw that was intercepted by linebacker Nate Gerry, who returned it 51 yards for a touchdown to give the Eagles a 14-0 lead just 10 minutes into the game.
“We knew they liked to do that,’’ Graham said. “We knew they liked it to my side. (It’s his) dominant (throwing) arm. I was trying to tip it. But Nate picked it off and took it back all the way.’’
In the second quarter, he had another sack from the end position, this one on a third-and-five play. Then, in the third quarter, he slid inside again on a third-and-eight play and picked up his third sack.
“Everybody just brought the energy today,’’ Graham said. “It felt good. I’m just happy that we all went out there and had one of those games that we’ve been looking to have as far as sacks are concerned.
“We’re coming together at the right time. Considering the emotional game we were coming off of (a 34-27 win on the road against Green Bay), we needed one like this.’’
Graham has had multiple sacks eight previous times in his 10 seasons with the Eagles. But the 31-year-old veteran never had had three sacks in a game before.
“This was my first one,’’ he said. “We started fast. That’s what you dream of as a d-lineman. Start fast.
“Fletch (defensive tackle Fletcher Cox) got me the second one because of the game (a twist) we ran. I owe him on that one.’’
Cox, a four-time All-Pro, didn’t have a sack Sunday, but was very active and disruptive up front. He finished with five tackles, including one for a loss.
“There’s been a lot of (negative) talk about Fletch,’’ coach Doug Pederson said after the game. “And now he’s coming into his own. He’s feeling good and healthy. You saw that today.
“Ten sacks. We got after them. I don’t have any worries (about the pass rush) moving forward.’’