Philadelphia Eagles: Greg Jennings

PHILADELPHIA -- Cary Williams realized he had a problem when he began to hear the same thing from the most important people in his life.

The Eagles cornerback heard from his brother and his best friend. His longtime pastor expressed his concern. And finally, when his wife Amanda confronted him about the issue, Williams knew it was time to face the truth.

He was being too darn nice.

"When my wife said it, it really kind of sunk in," Williams said. "I had to listen. She's been following for a long time and watching when I played. She said I just didn't have the same aggressiveness I used to."

[+] EnlargePhiladelphia's Cary Williams
AP Photo/Michael PerezCary Williams played more aggressively against the Bears on the advice of his wife and his pastor.
The Williams they knew had a mean streak -- on the football field, that is. Williams is a doting husband and father off the field. On it, he has an edge. Or at least he did when he was playing with the Baltimore Ravens. Since signing with the Eagles as a free agent this year, Williams' inner circle noticed a change in his on-field demeanor.

"I gave a bunch of excuses why," Williams said. "When I looked in the mirror, it is what it is. I am what I put out on the field. I just wanted to come out and play with aggressiveness and a passion for the game. You have to have that type of nastiness to you, to a degree."

If the words of his wife and family and friends didn't do it, then the Eagles' 48-30 loss in Minnesota would have. The secondary, including Williams, was beaten up and down the field by Vikings receiver Greg Jennings and his cohorts.

With Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery of the Chicago Bears coming to town, Williams knew it was time.

"I had to get back in character," he said.

And he did. The whole secondary played with an aggressiveness and physicality that was missing from the Minnesota game. Williams broke up two passes intended for Marshall. The second was an especially physical play that had Marshall looking at Williams like he'd gone crazy.

"Our corners challenged them," defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. "Our corners stepped up on their own and handled them. I had a lot of things in the plan, but as I watched it unfold and saw how the corners were holding up -- and they really were holding up well -- I left them out there on their own. They did a great job."

Williams and Bradley Fletcher seem better against bigger, more physical receivers. That's not a bad thing with Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys coming up this Sunday. Bryant is a favorite target of Tony Romo, but with Romo reportedly sidelined, he may be even more of a security blanket for backup quarterback Kyle Orton. He's the kind of receiver who can catch balls thrown near him, even if he's covered.

That will require Williams to stay in character.

"People were telling me I'm not the same guy I was in Baltimore, with the ferociousness," Williams said. "When they said that, I had to change the perception. Hopefully, I did."

He did it by being the nasty, aggressive Williams -- the one his wife and pastor want him to be.
MINNEAPOLIS -- The demolition in Denver made sense. Peyton Manning at the top of his game shredded a still-learning Eagles defense in a 52-20 Broncos rout.

But the meltdown in Minneapolis? Against a Vikings team with a journeyman quarterback and without Adrian Peterson? Nobody saw that coming, and when the 48-30 beating was over, nobody seemed able to explain how a defense that held nine consecutive opponents to 21 or fewer points got dismantled so thoroughly.

“I wish I had better answers for you,” defensive coordinator Bill Davis said.

[+] EnlargeGreg Jennings
Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY SportsGreg Jennings had his best game as a Viking, catching 11 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown.
“They just made more plays than we did,” Eagles safety Nate Allen said.

Matt Cassel completed his first eight passes, finishing 26-of-35 for 382 yards and two touchdowns. Greg Jennings caught 11 of those passes for 163 yards, including a 57-yard touchdown. Matt Asiata, who hadn’t touched the ball in a game all season, ran for three touchdowns.

It added up to the most points surrendered by an Eagles defense since Oct. 30, 2005, when the Broncos scored 49 points. Denver scored two special-teams touchdowns in their 52-20 win in September.

“I do not know if we were overlooking them or did not take it seriously,” Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin said. “I don’t know what happened, but whatever we did was not good enough going into this game.”

The Eagles have made it a priority to avoid giving up big plays. Cassel found Jennings streaking behind Allen and Patrick Chung in the first quarter for that 57-yard score. The Eagles gave up four passes of 20 yards or more, the most they allowed since a game against Carolina last year, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Chung, who lost his starting job to rookie Earl Wolff earlier in the season, was benched in favor of Kurt Coleman.

“Kurt has done a good job in practice,” coach Chip Kelly said. “Just trying to find out where we are since Earl has been down (with a knee injury). I think Kurt deserves some time and we’re just trying to figure out who can play.”

No one on the defense made much of a case for themselves in this game.

“We just weren’t playing tight enough coverage,” Davis said. “That’s attached to the rush, too. It’s all attached together. It’s not just the coverage giving up plays, it’s the rush that has to get there. Collectively, as a defense, we came up really short today.”

The Eagles had gotten some breaks this season. They faced Green Bay in its first game without Aaron Rodgers. That snowstorm last week helped neutralize Detroit’s Calvin Johnson. Facing a Vikings team without the injured Peterson and backup Toby Gerhart seemed like good fortune smiling on the Eagles again.

But without Peterson to lean on, Cassel was free to throw to Jennings, Jarius Wright, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jerome Simpson and Chase Ford. It begged the question of how Chicago, with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, will attack this defense.

“I don’t see it as a blueprint,” linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. “It was mainly us. We are going to have to go back and watch the film to see what we can correct.”

They should see plenty.

Rapid Reaction: Philadelphia Eagles

December, 15, 2013
12/15/13
4:23
PM ET

MINNEAPOLIS -- Quick thoughts on the Philadelphia Eagles' ugly 48-30 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday:

What it means: Eagles coach Chip Kelly officially has a bad loss on his NFL résumé. His Eagles were in first place in the NFC East, facing a 3-9-1 team without its best player, running back Adrian Peterson. Instead of securing their hold on a playoff berth, the Eagles were flat and looked unprepared and poorly coached in all three phases. Kelly didn’t use running back LeSean McCoy enough and handed the Vikings three points by going for a fourth-and-1 at his own 24-yard line in the third quarter. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis had no answers for Matt Cassel, even with the Vikings down to a practice-squad running back. Special-teams coach Dave Fipp’s plan to kick away from Cordarrelle Patterson gave the Vikings great field position all game.

Shredded and wounded: Philadelphia's secondary was terrible even before losing nickel corner Brandon Boykin (possible concussion) and safety Kurt Coleman (hamstring). Cassel beat the Eagles deep for a 57-yard touchdown to Greg Jennings in the first quarter. He was able to convert third downs all too easily. Safety Patrick Chung was benched in favor of Coleman, then had to return when Coleman got hurt. Colt Anderson, forced into action, got burned on a big play by tight end Chase Ford. To make matters worse, the secondary committed a rash of penalties in the fourth quarter to fuel a Vikings touchdown drive.

Stock watch: Falling: Nick Foles. He wasn’t Sports Illustrated-cover-jinx terrible, but the magic carpet ride is over. Foles took sacks by holding the ball too long. He threw a jump ball for DeSean Jackson that was intercepted. Foles was also called for a penalty for an illegal block, which negated a Jackson touchdown run on a reverse. Foles threw three second-half touchdown passes, but his chance to stage a comeback win was undermined by the Eagles’ inability to stop the Vikings at all.

What’s next: The Eagles face two must-win games. They host the Chicago Bears next week in a game that was flexed into prime time. Then they finish the regular season at the Dallas Cowboys, a game that could decide the NFC East title. The Eagles, who would lose on tiebreakers if they finish with the same record as the Cowboys, made things harder on themselves by not taking care of the Vikings.

Uncertainty easier to plan for than AP

December, 12, 2013
12/12/13
3:00
PM ET
PHILADELPHIA – Every offense presents challenges for the opposing defensive coordinator. Ultimately, it is tougher to stop Adrian Peterson than to cope with playing the Minnesota Vikings without him.

Peterson
Peterson
“We prepare like everybody is healthy,” Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. “We prepare that all people that are in question, if we don't know if they are healthy, we're going to get their best, all of them are up, and we're going to prepare that way. And then we'll adjust as the week goes on and we get more information, just like we would during a game.”

Last week, the Eagles prepared to face the Detroit Lions with Reggie Bush, Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford in what was forecast as a “wintry mix” of rain and snow flurries. Instead, the field was buried in snow and Bush was a late scratch due to his calf injury.

“If something happens to one of those guys during a game, we would adjust accordingly, like we did in this game where all of a sudden at the last minute Reggie Bush wasn't up,” Davis said. “You just kind of prepare for all of them and then adjust as you go.”

The Vikings present more variables than most. Peterson injured his foot last week. Backup Toby Gerhart has a hamstring injury and could be out or limited. The Vikings will start Matt Cassel at quarterback for the second week in a row. Christian Ponder started the six games before that, and Josh Freeman remains in the mix.

“When you watch Minnesota, their gameplan doesn’t change if Adrian doesn’t play and Toby goes in,” Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said. “Toby’s a similar type back. We’re preparing as if he’s going to play.”

There is a bigger adjustment to the quarterback, Kelly said.

“”I don’t know if [the offense] changes much,” he said. “I just think they both have a little bit different skill set in terms of what they do. The gist of what Coach [Bill] Musgrave is doing there offensively doesn’t change.”

It will have to change at least a little if Peterson and Gerhart are out or hampered by injuries. They are the only two running backs who have carried the ball for the Vikings all season.

With the running game in doubt, Musgrave will have to try to get the ball to wideouts Cordarrelle Patterson and Greg Jennings. They represent challenges, too, but nothing like a healthy Adrian Peterson.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider