Eagles' Todd Bowles looks for improvement on defense

Todd Bowles working with safety Kurt Coleman earlier this week. "I just thought we missed tackles," he said of Sunday's 30-17 loss to the Falcons. MATT SLOCUM / Associated Press
Todd Bowles working with safety Kurt Coleman earlier this week. "I just thought we missed tackles," he said of Sunday's 30-17 loss to the Falcons. MATT SLOCUM / Associated Press
Posted: November 04, 2012

Todd Bowles was naturally excited before his first game as Eagles defensive coordinator after he replaced the fired Juan Castillo during the bye week.

Bowles, the former Temple star, could not have envisioned the defense's dreary performance in his debut as coordinator in Sunday's 30-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Falcons scored on their first six possessions.

"It was tough because we didn't win," Bowles said Friday at the NovaCare Complex as the Eagles continued preparations for Monday night's game against the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome. "Then the penalties and the third downs."

Not much more of an explanation was needed.

The unbeaten Falcons picked up four first downs by penalty and converted on 7 of 13 third downs.

For Bowles, it wasn't very difficult to turn the page and begin concentrating on a Saints offense that is averaging 27.1 points per game.

"It was frustrating how we didn't play the way we normally play, but you write it off as a bad game and you look forward to the next week," Bowles said.

The Eagles players were not offering any excuses about their effort, but they did not suggest that they would need a transition period to get used to Bowles.

"We are fine and in a good position," middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. "Todd is very knowledgeable, a smart coach, and he puts us in the right place to make plays. We just have to make plays."

Bowles doesn't want to make things overly complicated. When asked why screen passes were a problem for the defense last week, he simply replied, "I just thought we missed tackles."

Better tackling and better pass defense will make any coordinator look smarter.

Bowles isn't exactly being eased into the job. In his debut, he had to face an MVP candidate in quarterback Matt Ryan, who compiled a 137.4 passer rating, throwing for 262 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions.

Now he has to face Drew Brees, who has thrown 301 career touchdown passes. Brees has thrown at least one touchdown pass in an NFL-record 50 consecutive games.

"You have to hope he is off a little bit," Bowles said.

That actually happened in a 34-14 loss Sunday in Denver, where Brees completed just 22 of 42 passes for 213 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. His passer rating was 72.8

The key to defending Brees is putting pressure on him, which is easier said than done because of how quickly he gets rid of the ball.

"He can make all the throws, he gets rid of it quick, and he can play-action," Bowles said. "He has all the intangibles. You just have to make sure you have a solid game plan."

And that is the part that is up to Bowles.

Last week it may not have been the game plan as much as the execution of it, or lack of execution.

Bowles does not think there isn't anything the defense did wrong against Atlanta that can't be remedied. He called the mistakes that the Eagles made "fixable."

"We took a lot of good things out of the ball game," he said, trying to maintain a positive outlook but not being overly convincing with that statement. "There were a lot of things [that we did in] training camp and OTAs - day one kind of things that shouldn't have happened."

Bowles added that the Eagles corrected those mistakes this week in meetings.

Whether it translates to success on the field remains to be seen - but, no doubt, Bowles is hoping his second game as defensive coordinator results in an improvement over the first.

Contact Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225, mnarducci@phillynews.com. Follow @sjnard on Twitter.

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