T.J. EDWARDS REMAINS UNSUNG HERO AS EAGLES SUCCESS CONTINUES
Updated: Nov 21
Edwards again was among defensive leaders in comeback win over Indianapolis Colts...Pro Bowl?
The Philadelphia Eagles pulled out a tense, fourth quarter come-from-behind win over the Indianapolis Colts, 17-16 Sunday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The victory improved the Eagles record to 9-1 and maintained the team’s status as the top team in the NFL thus far this season.
On offense, the Birds were led by quarterback Jalen Hurts, who in the fourth quarter, threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Quez Watkins 13:31 left and ran seven yards for the winning score with 1:20 left.
The Eagles defense was solid after allowing a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive by the Colts on their first.
The Birds gave up just three field goals over the final three quarters; the last two were scored after Eagles turnovers.
Newcomers Ndamukong Suh and (3 tackles, 0.5 quarterback sack, QB hurry) and Linval Joseph (half sack, four total tackles, QB hurry) had impacts on the win as the Birds were shorthanded at the tackle position, losing standout rookie Jordan Davis (ankle) and Marlon Tuipulotu (torn meniscus-season ending)
Safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson led the Eagles with 11 total tackles (10 solo).
A familiar face was at the top of the defensive stats list again. Linebacker T.J. Edwards notched ten total tackles (six solo) including two tackles for loss and a fumble recovery, his first of the season.
But the player who probably had the biggest impact on the game was Hurts, especially in the fourth quarter when the Birds outscored Indianapolis 14-3.
After the game Hurts was a cool as any 24-year-old starting quarterback has ever been in the NFL.
"There was never a doubt," Hurts said at his postgame press conference. "We never wavered. Throughout the game, there were things that did not go our way in terms of our execution and we put ourselves in a bad position, but we were never out of the fight. There was never any doubt because of the belief that we have in one another."
Going back to defense, the one player who is rarely in the spotlight, who is No.5 in the NFL in total tackles with 96, 59 of them solo, Edwards, had a lot to do with keeping the Colts in check after their opening drive that went for a touchdown, the only time Indianapolis found the end zone.
If you just counted his solo tackles against the rest if the team’s total tackles, Edwards would be tied for third with Gardner-Johnson. It remains to be seen if Edwards numbers will translate to a Pro Bowl selection.
HERE IS MY STORY ON EDWARDS THAT’S RUNNING IN THE NEW ISSUE OF FOOTBALLSTORIES MAGAZINE NOW IN STANDS
(His stats are updated for the website story).
If the Philadelphia Eagles are going to make some noise in the post season and make a run at a Super Bowl, the teams’ stars are going to need play like stars.
The Birds will need players like quarterback Jalen Hurts, offensive linemen Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, receivers A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith plus defenders Fletcher Cox, Darius Slay, Haason Reddick and C.J. Gardner-Johnson to play well.
The team will also need players who have not been in the spotlight as much or have the big contract to take their game to the next level.
Middle linebacker T.J. Edwards has been doing just that.
In ten games so far this season, Edwards has recorded 96 total tackles, 59 solo, two sacks, seven tackles for loss and five batted passes.
He made his first turnover of the season against the Colts.
The rookie free agent out of Wisconsin (2019) is tied for seventh in the NFL for total tackles with Indianapolis Colts linebacker Bobby Okereke.
Yet you won’t see many reporters around his locker during the week or post game.
“My whole life I’ve been under the radar,” Edwards said recently. “It doesn’t really bother me. I just want to do my part so we keep winning and playing good defense. I’m happy when anyone makes a play.”
Don’t get him wrong; Edwards would love to be on the highlight reel after a pick-six that helped the Birds get a win.
“You’re damn right; I’m trying to get [interceptions],” Edwards said with a smile. “But I’m excited when anyone on our defense makes a play.
“We’ve all got to do our part in order for guys to make plays,” Edwards continued. “I was just happy we got a couple…we needed them bad. But you’re damn right; mine are coming, believe that, mine are coming.”
Head coach Nick Sirianni was recently asked to talk about the kind of numbers Edwards has put up this season.
“I think he's had a really good year,” Sirianni said. “He's playing physical, getting to the football, identifying things. He's been able to get to the -- has a very good accelerated vision where he sees things happening and is able to diagnose quickly. He just thinks so quickly out on the field and he's one of our leaders out there getting the calls in and communicating to the defense. He's had a great year.”
The Eagles played back-to-back-games against teams playing with nothing to lose.
The Houston Texans came into their game on Thursday Night Football with just one win and a tie. The Birds were undefeated coming into NRG Stadium with a 7-0 record.
The game was tied 14-14 at the half. Texans rookie running back Dameon Pierce was having a big night as the Eagles struggled to stop the run after losing rookie defensive tackle Jordan Davis for two months because of an ankle injury.
The Birds adjusted at the half and outscored their host 15-3 in the third and fourth quarter, coasting to a win.
Edwards was asked about playing opponents that have nothing to lose
“When we go into games, we respect everybody,” the 26-year-old said. “It’s the NFL. They got really good players, a really good running back. They definitely made some plays early on. I was just proud of how we adjusted in the second half. We seemed to get off the field when we needed to, the turnovers were huge.
“I was happy about fighting…we didn’t let those plays that happened early get to us. We just fight and scrap and find a way to win.”
Against the Washington Commanders, the Eagles seemed to feel the strain that comes with an 8-0 record and the best start in franchise history.
The Commanders, led by Taylor Heinicke and a re-vamped offensive line, gashed the Eagles run defense for 152 yards on an eye-popping 49 carries.
The Eagles offense was off, turning the ball over four times (three when the game was still winnable), killing drives that would have compelled the Commanders to abandon the run game.
Heinicke was able to convert those 12 of 21 third downs, keeping drive after drive alive.
After the 32-21 loss, Edwards, who had 12 total tackles in the game, was asked to give his assessment of how the defense played on third down:
“I think third and short has a lot to do with it, but just success on working as a cohesive unit and executing better,” Edwards said. “But, it happens. We made some good plays, some good catches, some good throws and we’ll be better for sure.”
Even after turning the ball over four times against Washington, the Eagles are still a plus-13 in the giveaway-take away category, No. 1 in the NFL.
Edwards believes turnovers are an important stat for any NFL team that is winning.
“It’s a huge stat for us,” Edwards said. “We know it’s a winning stat for sure. That’s something we’ve been talking about since OTAs. It’s something we knew we needed to improve on from last year. I think our offense has done such a good job, just holding on to the ball, making the offense beat us. We’ve done a good job of taking it away too. We’ve just got to keep doing those things.
“It’s something we talk about every, single week,” Edwards continued. “How we can take the ball away against different teams. I’m excited about where we’re at right now and how much more we can be better…and win on that stat.”
Edwards was asked about Brown saying he’s glad the narrative of a perfect season is over.
“It is what it is. You don’t win every game, and it’s the NFL,” Edwards said. “Every team in this league has really good players, a really good offense, a really good defense, and really good special teams, so you’ve got to be at your best every game. They made more plays than we did but I think he’s kind of alluding to the fact that we’re excited to get back to work and fix this.”
Eagles fans should know Edwards will do his part to fix the run defense, even if no one notices.*
Email Al Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org
Stats from espn.com