Paul Domowitch: Jim Johnson, Eagles' win over Colts was for you

Johnson
Johnson
Posted: November 09, 2010

This is an excerpt from Paul Domowitch's "Day-After Dissection," which is posted Mondays after Eagles games on the Daily News' Eagles blog. For more, visit www.eagletarian.com.

This one was for the old man.

This one was for Jim Johnson, who didn't live long enough to see his defense do what it did Sunday. He didn't live long enough to see it beat Peyton Manning.

"This is sweet," defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said after the Eagles intercepted Manning twice and sacked him three times in a dramatic, 26-24 win over the Colts. "Sweet. Sweet. We battled [Manning] for a lot of years. I know Jim always wanted to get him. He's a great player. But our players got him. They got him today."

For many of the Eagles' young defensive players, Johnson, who died two summers ago after losing his battle to cancer, is a distant memory. But not to McDermott. And it was clear Johnson was on his mind after the win.

Johnson had a lot of success in his 10 years as the Eagles' defensive coordinator. But he never could tame Manning. Three battles, three decisive KOs. Manning's Colts scored 124 points in those three games against the Birds, and the quarterback who recently was voted the eighth greatest player in NFL history pretty much did whatever he wanted to against the old man's defense. Seven touchdowns, one interception, a .695 completion percentage. A double-digit yards-per-attempt average (10.7). A 132.3 passer rating.

On Sunday, that finally changed. Using many of the tricks he learned from Johnson, McDermott had a terrific game plan against Manning. Kept him off balance with an assortment of blitzes and coverages and fronts.

It was only the second time in Manning's last 42 regular-season starts that he's been sacked more than twice.

After giving up 14 pass plays of 20 yards or more in the previous three games to Kerry Collins, Matt Ryan and Alex Smith, the Eagles allowed just three to Manning - a 33-yarder to wide receiver Blair White, a 20-yarder to running back Donald Brown and a 22-yard screen to tight end Jacob Tamme.

They tackled and covered as well as they have all season, limiting the Colts' yards after the catch and neutralizing their wide-receiver and tight-end screen game. They held wide receivers Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon to 7.5 yards per catch. They held Manning to 5.65 yards per attempt. It was only the ninth time in the last 3 years that a defense has held him under 6 yards per attempt.

They held Manning, perhaps the best third-down quarterback in history, to three completions in eight attempts on third down. Just two of those completions produced first downs.

The very same defense that came up so small in the fourth quarter 2 weeks ago, against Collins and the Titans, held Manning to 11 completions in 20 attempts in the fourth quarter.

Somewhere, the old man was smiling.

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