Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Eagles defense stout when it counts

MIAMI - From the Commando Crawl to the Florida Flip, the Eagles' defense repeatedly sold out to stop the Dolphins when it counted.

(Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
(Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)Read more

MIAMI - From the Commando Crawl to the Florida Flip, the Eagles' defense repeatedly sold out to stop the Dolphins when it counted.

Six times, the defense stiffened its backbone and stymied the Dolphins' short-yardage efforts. Each time, it contributed to the Eagles' 26-10 upset win.

Plays came from the likely - tackle Cullen Jenkins and end Trent Cole - and the unlikely: reserve tackle Derek Landri, who channeled his inner Marine; cornerback Dominique-Rodgers Cromartie, a Bradenton, Fla., native with heretofore undiscovered acrobatic skills; and Asante Samuel.

Yes, Asante Samuel.

In fact, Samuel, an interception artist who often is cast as a reluctant tackler, started it all, on a third-and-3 in the second quarter.

Samuel recovered from being burned by Davone Bess across the middle, caught Bess and punched the ball loose. Samuel stayed with the play, too: He recovered the fumble at the Dolphins' 34.

That set up the Eagles' go-ahead field goal, a lead they did not relinquish, in part because the defense became more stout as the game progressed.

"We did real good on short yardage," Samuel said, "and my play was the first play."

He explained, "I had the opportunity to get the ball out. I seized the moment. Made a play. The team feeds off turnovers - especially when I get one. That's what I do . . . It was my opportunity to make a play. The team needed a little energy. I'm just here to provide a little energy."

He wasn't the only one.

Late in the second, on third-and-1, then on fourth-and-1, at the Eagles' 48, the Dolphins tried to pound the ball up the middle. Jenkins stopped Daniel Thomas first. Cole got Lex Hillard the second time.

Neither was as impressive as Landri's hit in the third.

On third-and-goal from the Eagles' 2, Landri scuttled past two linemen, shot a gap and put his shoulder in Thomas' gut. Thomas collapsed for a 2-yard loss and lay there, stunned.

Landri, in celebration, continued to crawl forward on his elbows like a Marines recruit. All he needed was camouflage paint on his face.

"Hey, we're in the trenches," Landri said.

His successful attack was a result of sound reconnaissance and planning.

"They had two backs and a big lineman in the backfield. You knew what was coming - straight ahead," Landri said. "They ended up giving a quick dive. I got penetration. Flopped him up."

The Dolphins had driven 59 yards but could not get the seven points. They settled for three, making it 24-10.

But they were within two touchdowns with almost 20 minutes to play, and they had frozen the Eagles' offense. And, soon enough, they had the ball, third-and-2, on the second play of the fourth quarter.

The Fins went to money receiver Brandon Marshall, a 6-4, 230-pound beast.

DRC, nearly 50 pounds lighter, had him tightly covered. All Marshall had to do is catch and fall forward. DRC would not have that.

Ferociously, he slammed into Marshall and wrapped him up. Marshall resisted; DRC's momentum carried him clean over Marshall. But Marshall went down, too.

Afterward, DRC beamed.

"See that right there?" DRC asked, slapping his chest. "That's heart!"

He laughed, and admitted that he was fortunate to complete the collision.

"I was happy," he said. "Looking at Marshall, you see how big he is. Nine out of 10 times he'll probably break that tackle."

That created a fourth-and-1, on which the Dolphins botched the snap and turned the ball over on downs.

Maybe they figured they weren't going to get that 1 yard, anyway.