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Does the Eagles' defensive staff lack self-awareness of the defense's capabilities?

With 9:25 left in the game on a crucial third and three from the Eagles 24-yard line, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw an incomplete pass, which would have likely led to a field goal attempt. The Niners were leading 23-21, and a made field goal would have extended their lead to five, likely forcing the Eagles to score a touchdown to win the game. However, 49ers tight end Derek Carrier was called for offensive pass interference, leaving the Eagles with an interesting decison.

• Do you decline the penalty and take the fourth and three from the 24?

• Or do you accept the penalty, pushing the Niners back 10 yards to the 34-yard line, but giving them another down and a difficult third and 13?

The Eagles chose the latter, and as we saw last Sunday, Kaepernick ran for a first down. Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis explained the thought process.

"They have a great kicker who had already kicked a long one," said Davis, "and they were in a field goal range that he could make. So if you take the penalty, we have to replay third down. It's an aggressive move, but we backed them up to the 35 where it's a longer (field goal attempt) now, and it's iffy. I chose to go with a blitz to try to get a sack, a quick throw, or an incomplete (pass), to make it either out of field goal range so they don't even get their three, or we make it still that long field goal. When I went with the blitz, (the Niners) had a better call than I did. I really would put that on myself. (They) ran a quarterback sweep outside of the blitz. They cracked down, and collapsed the side. We had one guy to make the tackle, he didn't make it, and they got the first down.

"Aggressive move on our part. That's the way we're going to play this season out, and we really did think we could (hold them to zero points instead of three) by taking the field goal away."

At that point in the game the Niners had already converted, in chronological order,

• A third and 12

• A third and 10

• A third and six

• A third and five

• A third and 15

• A third and 11

• A third and nine

• A third and seven

• Several other third and short conversions.

Everyone loves an aggressive defense and an aggressive mentality, especially Eagles fans, who all remember the old Eagles defenses under Buddy Ryan, Bud Carson, and Jim Johnson. Aggressiveness is good. However, being aggressive with a defensive unit that has not proven it can effectively handle third and long situations seems like a lack of self-awareness of the defense's capabilities. In this case the risk outweighed the reward.

The Niners' drive eventually stalled and they wound up kicking a field goal anyway. If the Eagles continue to employ that aggressive approach, they may wind up being burnt even worse.

Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski