Eagles notebook: Asomugha defends using zone on critical play
The Eagles are a man-press coverage team, and they played that way for the majority of Sunday's game against the Steelers with great success — except when it counted most.
The Steelers converted a pivotal third-and-12 during their game-winning drive against a “two-man” zone defense. Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha defended defensive coordinator Juan Castillo's call regardless of the outcome.
“I think 100 percent so, and that's not even saying that to back up my coach,” he said. “We have done it throughout the year. Any time it is third-and-long like that, you are expecting down field, a screen or a dump off. In those types of situations, you don't want to be in man (coverage). The zone was the right call, but we just got out of our zone, or that play doesn't happen at all.”
• The Eagles weren't concerned with Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace's ability to run anything other than a vertical route. Philadelphia put cornerback Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie on Wallace and had Asomugha take Antonio Brown. “We knew (Brown) was their guy who runs every single route that they have,” Asomugha said. “Seventeen was more of a straight down the field guy.” Wallace finished with 17 yards on two catches — his fewest this season. Brown had seven catches for 86 yards.
• Rashard Mendenhall rushed for more yards (81) than the Steelers had in any game this year. Still, the Eagles wouldn't say Mendenhall was the difference for the NFL's 31st-ranked rushing team. “We have to execute,” linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. “It was nothing about Mendenhall being back. It is us executing.”
• The loss dropped the Eagles to 3-2, but both defensive end Trent Cole and running back LeSean McCoy felt strongly that they lost the game rather than the Steelers won it. “It is frustrating to lose a game you should've won,” McCoy said. Cole, held to one tackle, agreed. “To be true, we gave this game up. We should've beaten them,” Cole said. “Plain and simple, we should've beaten them.”
• McCoy, held to 53 yards on 16 carries, didn't have many good things to say about a Steelers defense that held the Eagles to 246 total yards. “I want to be humble, but we felt like we could drive on them,” McCoy said. “At the beginning of the game, the calls we're making, the runs, the passes — we were driving, driving.”
— Mark Kaboly