CINCINNATI - The Eagles coaching staff changed, but the late-season defensive slumps remain from the previous administration. The Eagles defense was considered a strength earlier this season. It now appears to be a liability.
The Cincinnati Bengals totaled 412 yards on 64 offensive plays in a 32-14 win over the Eagles. They topped 20 points for the first time since Oct. 30, nearly reaching that total in the first half.
Quarterback Andy Dalton moved the ball with ease against an Eagles defense that can't pressure the passer, hold its coverage, or get off the field on third downs. The Eagles allowed at least 380 yards for the third straight week. They allowed that total just twice in their first nine games.
"Last couple of weeks have been frustrating," cornerback Nolan Carroll said. "To not get off on third downs - it's something we've done well, and the past couple of weeks, we haven't been able to get it done. It [stinks], and we can be mad at ourselves for it. We get them in these third-and-long situations, but it's something or another and they convert it."
The Bengals had conversions of 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, and 5 yards on Sunday. Those would seem to be good opportunities for the pass rush to pressure Dalton, but he was not sacked and was hit only once.
This has been an ongoing problem for the Eagles defense. They didn't have any sacks last week, either, and they have only six sacks in their last six games.
"It's definitely not a problem," insisted defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who hasn't recorded a sack since Oct. 9. "Obviously, we aren't getting to the quarterback the way we should. When teams have success dinking and dunking us, and they see previous teams dinking and dunking, it's a copycat league. Teams are going to do that. They're going to get rid of the ball quick. And when they get ready to go deep, they have seven-man protect. And we're rushing with four, so you do the math."
The Eagles defense is built around pressuring the quarterback with a four-man rush. It does not rely on blitzing. But when they can't get pressure with four rushers, opposing quarterbacks will have time to throw. Dalton finished 23 of 31 for 332 yards and two touchdowns - and he played behind an offensive line that has been criticized in recent weeks. His 130 passer rating was his best of the season.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson said he would spend time with defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz to determine if they should blitz more going forward.
"If you're going to get pressure, you're going to give up something somewhere else," Pederson said. "So you're damned if you do, and damned if you don't."