Malcolm Jenkins said that he didn't like the "demeanor" of the Eagles during Sunday's 48-7 loss to the Saints.
"I didn't feel like, as a team, we had a lot of fight," Jenkins said Tuesday. "I'd rather just get thrown out of a game than lay down and take it."
The Eagles safety's comments have since gone viral and Doug Pederson and some of Jenkins' teammates have since been asked to give their assessment of the team's demeanor down the stretch of their first blowout defeat in years. Some agreed. Some didn't.
"I talk about ownership quite a bit, and I think some of his comments are directed towards him," Pederson said Wednesday. "He'll own that."
Jenkins spoke about the team as a whole, but he didn't mention himself specifically until he had already been asked several follow-up questions. He was clearly calling coaches and players – at least on the defensive side of the ball – out on the carpet.
"Some things are just non-negotiable," Jenkins said. "We can deal with guys getting beat. Mistakes happen. If you don't win at the point of attack, cool. But if you don't know what you're doing or if you're not giving us everything you've got, especially when our backs are on the wall then I think that's something as leaders of the team we need to nip in the bud because we're at that moment where we can't carry non-essential personnel.
"Not to say that there are guys that aren't playing hard or aren't giving it what they've got. We just need every drop of it at this point."
The jury is still out on whether the Eagles can get every drop out of roster that has been depleted by injuries and turn this season around. But Jenkins saw something that he didn't like Sunday. Was it Jim Schwartz's defensive scheme? Was it the linemen up front? Was it the linebackers?
Or was it even himself, as Pederson said?
Here's a closer look at the Eagles defense from Sunday and whether Jenkins' theory holds:
Schwartz's game plan was to stop the run (duh) and in coverage double receiver Michael Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara.
Jenkins: Our plan was really aggressive. We said we were going to line up, take away their best players and make them beat us with other guys.
What that meant was having the deep safety (Corey Graham mostly) shade toward Thomas and a linebacker (Jordan Hicks mostly) help Jenkins with Kamara. The Eagles kept those two in check early, but with quarterback Drew Brees on fire, per usual, the other defenders struggled in man coverage.
But that wasn't always the case. On this second down pass in the first quarter, for instance, the Eagles went single high-man and cornerback Sidney Jones (No. 22) got burned by Thomas (No. 13) for 30 yards.
Two plays later, on the same drive, Schwartz blitzed on second down and 10. The blitz didn't get home – Brees (No. 9) had been sacked only nine times entering the game – and slot receiver Keith Kirkwood (No. 18) lost Avonte Maddox (No. 29) and picked up 19 yards.
By the second half, Saints coach Sean Payton called plays that freed up receivers deep vs. Schwartz's base coverage. On this second and 15 play, Thomas ran a shallow cross that pulled Graham (No. 24) down from the post and freed tight end Dan Arnold (No. 85) down the field past linebacker Nigel Bradham (No. 53) for a 23-yard grab.
Payton called something similar that matched cornerback Rasul Douglas (No. 32) on Tre'Quan Smith (No. 10) on a deep post.
The only three-and-out stop the Eagles delivered until very late in the game came in the second quarter after the offense narrowed the Saints lead to 17-7. Schwartz was digging deep into his bag of tricks and on this third and ten rushed only three.
It worked and later in the game, the Eagles had another third down stop with a three-man rush.
Schwartz: Probably one of our best packages in that last game was a three-man pass rush. You know me. I would rather eat a lot of vegetables than go to a three-man pass rush. That's bad medicine. But it was necessary in that game.
Schwartz's coverages were mostly vanilla. He played more man coverage than perhaps ever. It could be argued that he wanted to keep the scheme simple with so many new faces. But zone defense isn't calculus.
Pederson: Did you see some of the throws Drew Brees made? We had guys in position to make plays. We just didn't finish the play. It wasn't about scheme.
On the Saints' very first play, they ran running back Mark Ingram (No. 22) at Jones and he missed the tackle. Even though Ingram ran 38 yards, defensive linemen Fletcher Cox (No. 91) and Michael Bennett (No. 77) chased him all the way.
That would be the Saints' longest run of the game, but they bled the Eagles on the ground with five, six, seven, eight-yard rushes.
Schwartz: We knew we would have challenges in coverage, we knew it was tough to get turnovers, we knew it was tough to get sacks, but we put ourselves, scheme-wise, in position to stop the run, and we didn't get that done for a second week in a row.
Ingram and Kamara combined to run 29 times for 174 yards. The Saints attacked the edges, but they also hit the middle. And even with a four-linebacker heavy package, the Eagles' front seven couldn't defend the run.
Jenkins: You got to man up. They had the one big run, but other than that, none of the runs really got out of the grasp of the defense. They just moved us for five, six yards every time they ran it. That's a direct challenge to our demeanor, to our toughness, who we are as men.
Cox: The demeanor of this team has been great all year. There's been great energy. That's not the problem. We got ourselves in a hole Sunday that we could not get out. You want to talk about demeanor that's making excuses about your teammates.
Brees got the ball out in 2.41 seconds, but when there were opportunities to pressure him, the Eagles' front didn't get home. Of the four rushers on this play, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (No. 94) was the only one singled up, and he wasn't close.
The Eagles did show some fight in the fourth quarter. The Saints, ahead, 45-7, marched down to the 5-yard line. The defense stopped three runs and forced a field goal.
Defensive end Brandon Graham: We were all talking that we wanted to end the game on a good note.
It was better than nothing.
On the Saints' second drive they faced an early third and nine. The Eagles dropped into one of their rare zones – a Cover 2 – and Brees dumped to Kirkwood.
Schwartz didn't fault Bradham from dropping too deep and allowing the receiver to pick up the first down after the catch.
Schwartz: They were extremely efficient against zone. We played a lot more man than we've played since I've been here. One of the reasons is [Brees] is so good at taking what the defense gives and they're such good run-after-the-catch guys that make plays like that difficult.
But Bradham, overall, hasn't played well this season. On this third quarter second and three, he read run – there was no play action – and didn't help take away the lane to a slanting Thomas.
Schwartz gave one of his stock answers when asked to assess Bradham's play this season.
Schwartz: 4 and 6.
Schwartz was already dealing with a short deck before Jones, Maddox and Douglas left with injuries. By the end of the game, his three cornerbacks were Chandon Sullivan (No. 39), Cre'Von LeBlanc (No. 34) and De'Vante Bausby.
Kamara waltzed into the end zone for one of the easier touchdowns of his career when someone in the secondary failed to set the edge.
Schwartz: We had one where we had some guys get on the field that didn't communicate, and all of a sudden we just let a guy walk into the end zone when we should have a guy sitting right there.
For the most part, Schwartz has avoided using injuries as an excuse.
Schwartz: Those are challenging situations, but … they don't start you with extra points in the beginning of the game and you don't get any gold stars for performing with fill-in players or backup players, just like nobody grades you on a curve if you stay 100% healthy.
But Corey Graham is a 12-year veteran. He's been with the Eagles for two seasons. His job was to cloud cover Thomas, and on this 23-yard touchdown, he failed to get over and help Douglas, who apparently needed as much as he could get before he left.
Early on, Jenkins (No. 27) was one of the few Eagles making plays. He made a third down stop here on the first drive, which led to a field goal.
And he dropped Kamara for no gain on second down on the Eagles' only three-and-out on the Saints' first nine possessions.
But he wasn't perfect by any means. He missed a few tackles, got caught over-pursuing against the run, and got burned on this fourth down 37-yard touchdown pass to Kamara.
Jenkins said that he didn't have any problem with Schwartz's three-man rush. He said that he got greedy and should have played outside leverage with help from Hicks inside. Jenkins would later give Payton the middle finger, likely for that fourth quarter play that came at his expense.
Jenkins: There's plays that on any game that are uncharacteristic of me and things that I need to do better in order for us to have success.
He's not the only one on the Eagles.