But it is not the Eagles' defense that will determine whether they have chance Sunday against the heavily favored Denver Broncos. It is the Eagles' offense.
Put simply, the defense isn’t going to stop Manning, Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas and the rest. Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson are going to have to score. And score. And score some more.
“I have a lot of confidence in our offense,” McCoy said. “I think we’ll put points up. Once you punt the ball to Peyton Manning, you’ve got to count that as 7. Peyton and his offense, they’re smoking, they’re rolling, they’re scoring. So we’ve got to score.”
It’s not as if there’s some magic number of points the Eagles need to hit to have a chance. And it’s not as if they can press a button and score more quickly or efficiently.
“Every time we go out there, the goal is to score a touchdown,” wide receiver Jason Avant said. “If you go out and try to do more because of (Manning), you’re not going to play well.”
The Eagles scored 33 points before shutting it down, perhaps too soon, in their opener at Washington. They scored 30 despite misfiring early in a loss to San Diego. It was only in their most recent game, a 26-16 loss at home to Kansas City, that they weren’t able to light up the scoreboard.
“In all three games, the only time I think we’ve been stopped is when we’ve shot ourselves in the foot,” center Jason Kelce said. “Missed opportunities, penalties, turnovers were a killer for us last week. As long as we take care of the football and do what we’re supposed to do on each play, this offense is very dynamic. There’s a lot of playmakers in it. We should be able to take advantage of any defense we play.”
It is not in coach Chip Kelly’s DNA to slow his offense down and try to keep Manning off the field. He is trying to build an aggressive mindset here, and that transcends the particulars of this one game. So expect the Eagles to run their offense as quickly as they can.
One thing they can’t afford to do is fall behind by more than a score or two early. That’s always difficult, but it will be especially tough for this offense to protect Vick if the running game is eliminated as a viable option.
That’s the reason the Broncos have the No. 1 rushing defense in the NFL, with just 43.3 yards allowed per game. Opponents, forced to play catchup, have only tried to run the ball against them 57 times. That’s the second-lowest number in the league.
“It’s hard to run the ball when you’re down,” McCoy said. “You can’t look at it that way.”
Everyone knows there will be a high-powered offense operating at Mile High on Sunday. For the Eagles to have a chance, there have to be two.