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Eagles can accomplish something that hasn’t been done since the 1958 Baltimore Colts


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Eagles can accomplish something that hasn’t been done since the 1958 Baltimore Colts

  • Published: Nov. 09, 2022, 6:30 a.m.
PHILADELPHIA – Many people who think of the 1958 Baltimore Colts think of the black and white video from "The Greatest Game Ever Played,” with Johnny Unitas leading the Colts offense down the field, handing the ball off to Alan Ameche for a game-winning touchdown in overtime.
Most people do not think about the Colts defense from that game that helped the team get to the NFL Championship Game. NFL defenses played differently 64 years ago when the forward pass was not as readily used as it is now. However Ray BrownAndy Nelson, and Carl Taseff snagged interceptions at a considerable rate, finishing with season with 35 that season.
This season, the Eagles are on a pace that could be a standout number, trending to have 25 interceptions after the season is over. However, the Eagles could do something that has not been done since that 1958 Colts team.
According to the NFL, if the Eagles finish Monday night’s game against the Washington Commanders with a positive turnover ratio, they will be the first team since the 1958 Colts to open a season with a plus-turnover margin in their first nine games.
One of the reasons the Eagles have been able to put themselves in this position to tie this record is their ability to create turnovers. Heading into the Commanders game, the Eagles lead the league in takeaways (18), including twelve interceptions.
The player who has led the interception charge for the Eagles this season has been safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson. Gardner-Johnson, who the Eagles acquired in a trade with the New Orleans Saints just before the season began, leads the league with five interceptions.
Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon said Gardner-Johnson has been impressive in getting picks, with Gannon pointing out Gardner-Johnson’s interception in the win against the Dallas Cowboys.
"That was unbelievable,” Gannon said. "That was right in front of me. He caught it an inch from the ground. That’s a talented player that works on it every day with the coaches, and he’s done a good job of capitalizing on some of those plays he gets his hands on.”
Gannon added that other defensive backs, such as cornerbacks Darius SlayJames Bradberry, and Avonte Maddox, have made their mark as well, saying they have used their experience and
"Slay, Bradberry, and Avonte have made some catches when the ball is around them, and that’s why we’re playing really good pass defense right now and taking the ball away at a high level. They understand where to be, where their opportunities are going to come, and make some plays that if you or I were out there, we probably wouldn’t make them. They’re executing well, and we need to continue to do that.”
Another reason why the Eagles have been able to get so many interceptions was because of the focus that head coach Nick Sirianni has placed on interceptions during practice. Gannon and the defensive back coaches help by throwing the ball in different locations that simulate how it could be coming to the players, not always in a straight spiral.
"That’s one of the things that our head coach does,” Gannon said. "For the guys that have the opportunity to catch balls, he makes them catch balls. They go through the same catch circuit that the receivers do, and that’s dictated by him, which is awesome.”
The Eagles could have several opportunities to get those coveted interception opportunities Monday night. Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke has been able to get the ball out of his hand quicker than former starter and ex-Eagle Carson Wentz, who is on injured reserve with a broken finger. However, he has been putting the ball in harm’s way, throwing three interceptions in his three starts.
Even though the Commanders changed quarterbacks, Gannon said he had not seen much of a difference in what they run offensively and that Heinicke will still be a challenge to stop.
"It’s basically the same offense to me,” Gannon said. "It’s just that he can move around and make some off-schedule plays, which that presents a different challenge to us when we rush and when we cover. We’ll have a good plan ready to go, and we have to execute at a high level to give ourselves a chance to win the game.”


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