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Not 'D' Eagles' best performance

Defense fails to get job done against Niners.

The 49ers' Michael Crabtree (right) catches a pass as the Cary Williams defends. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
The 49ers' Michael Crabtree (right) catches a pass as the Cary Williams defends. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)Read more

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Playing defense for a Chip Kelly-coached team means never having to say I'm bored.

Even during the best of times, when Kelly's offense is clicking, it's not on the field for very long. Twenty-two of the Eagles' 51 touchdown drives last season were four plays or less.

The Eagles finished second in the league in total offense and fourth in the league in scoring last season and the defense still was on the field for a league-high 1,150 snaps.

Yesterday definitely wasn't the best of times. The offense is missing three starters on its line and managed just five first downs in the first three quarters against the 49ers. Five first downs.

The offense managed just 213 yards. The Eagles' top running back, who led the league in rushing just a season ago, had 17 yards on 10 carries. Bill Davis' defense was on the field for 42 minutes, the most in 20 regular-season games under Kelly.

"It's us," defensive coordinator Bill Davis said after the Eagles' 26-21 loss to the 49ers. "We're the ones on the field who've got to get ourselves off the field.

"There's no excuses there. We have to get in more manageable third downs at times. Sometimes we were in manageable third downs and had penalties or they made plays. But it's our responsibility to get off the field."

Considering how long they were on the field yesterday, Davis' defense didn't play all that badly. Got gashed for 218 rushing yards and 407 yards overall.

Struggled at times in the second half, allowing the 49ers to convert several third-and-longs, including a killer third-and-15 early in the third quarter that kept a Niners' touchdown drive alive.

Linebacker Trent Cole sacked Colin Kaepernick for a 5-yard loss at the Philadelphia 28 that would have forced the Niners to settle for a Phil Dawson field-goal attempt. But cornerback Cary Williams was called for defensive holding on the play, giving San Francisco an automatic first down.

"They called it, I got to live with it and play the next down," said Williams.

"Cary didn't fight the penalty," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "Usually, if he's unhappy with it, you'll know.

"It was tough. The hardest part of it was that it didn't really affect the play, but holding is an automatic first down. For that drive, that was huge. But it's tough playing DB in the league right now. That kind of stuff is hard to avoid."

Jenkins, an offseason free-agent signee, had another big game. Intercepted a pass for the third straight game in the second quarter and returned it 53 yards for a touchdown that gave the Eagles a 14-10 lead at the time.

The Eagles did a decent job on the Niners' dual-threat quarterback, holding him to 218 passing yards overall. Sacked him four times. But Kaepernick threw two touchdown passes, one to running back Frank Gore, the other to wide receiver Stevie Johnson, who made a nice sideline catch despite being defended well by Jenkins.

But Kaepernick also rushed for 58 yards, including a 16-yard fourth-quarter run on a third-and-13 that kept the drive alive.

The defense held the Niners to a field goal on that drive. Got the ball back for the offense late in the fourth quarter after the Eagles failed to score from the 1-yard line.

"We just didn't make enough plays at the end," Davis said. "It was the kind of game we thought it would be. We thought it would be heavy run. We needed to make some plays. Guys fought their tails off."

The Niners converted five of 10 third-down opportunities in the second half, and that doesn't include the third-and-15 in which Williams was flagged for the hold. They converted a third-and-13, a third-and-11, a third-and-9 and a third-and-7.

"One of them was an unbelievable catch down the sideline on Malcolm," Davis said, referring to Johnson's 12-yard touchdown catch on a third-and-11 play.

"That was a big one. Then they ran a crack toss against one of our blitzes. They had a better call on that play that I did. At the end of the day, we just have to make one more play."

It certainly will help when they get their best defensive player, inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks, back. Kendricks sat out his second straight game yesterday with a calf injury. It's uncertain whether he'll be ready for Sunday's game against the Rams.

"Having Mychal back will definitely help us," veteran linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. "He's a big-time playmaker.

"I expect us to bounce back. This was a minor setback. Hats off to them. They made the play when they needed to make the play. We didn't. But it's a long season."

Yes it is.

That Davis' defense had enough left at the end to hold the Niners to a field goal on their next-to-last possession and force them to punt on their final possession, was impressive.

But no matter how well-conditioned they are, they aren't going to survive if they have to be on the field 42 minutes a game.

"Guys fought right to the end," linebacker Connor Barwin said. "You've got to be happy with that, especially considering how much we were on the field."

Said Jenkins: "I don't think anybody's going to look at this game and let it hurt our confidence. We played a good team on the road and still were one play away. We have that one play somewhere in this locker room. We just didn't make it today."