Desai Acknowledges His Major Mistake from Blowout to 49ers

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Desai explains his biggest fault from blowout to 49ers originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Eagles’ defense got pantsed by the 49ers on Sunday in a 42-19 loss. There’s no other way to put it.

After forcing two quick three-and-outs, the 49ers scored touchdowns on six consecutive drives and the first five came on drives of 75+ yards. It’s was a really rough game for Sean Desai’s group.

But what bothered the Eagles’ first-year defensive coordinator most about the performance?

“I’ve got to get to some calls differently and get to them a little bit quicker and get to them in better situations,” Desai said. “That’s what I’ve got to be able to do.

“That is what’s going to help our guys execute in a cleaner format. So, I’ve got to do a better job of that. We started the game fast. We played really good in the first quarter, and then I didn’t get to the things that we needed to get to fast enough.”

You could certainly argue that the Eagles’ problem in this game wasn’t that they didn’t get to their answers but that they simply had no answers. The only time the Eagles’ defense didn’t give up a touchdown after the first two drives was when the 49ers got in victory formation at the end of the game.

The 49ers scored touchdowns on their first four drives to start the second half.

“They’re looking to me, and I’ve got to be better for them,” Desai said. “I’ve got to get them in the right call faster and more consistently. I think that’s what it comes down to.”

Desai on Tuesday was asked about the process of trying to get to his answers during a game.

“To be honest with you, I think we’ve done a good job of it this year, I really do, over the course of the year,” Desai said. “In this game, I think we — the coaches and we all talk about it, and we continue to lean in with each other.

It’s just a matter of me calling the right play at the right time. Give credit to them, they hit more right plays at the right time than I did.”

In fairness to Desai, he’s right about one thing. There have been games this year when he has adjusted and the Eagles finished strong. The Eagles were able to shut out the Chiefs in the second half on the road in Week 11 and they held the high-flying Dolphins to just 7 points in the second half in Week 7.

But against the 49ers? They couldn’t do anything to stop them in the second half, which was really highlighted after the Eagles forced a couple of three-and-outs to start the game.

What was the difference for the Eagles after those two early stops?

“I think one thing [the 49ers] leaned into was their 4 by 1 passing game, and it was good of them,” Desai said. “I got to be able to get our answers to the 4 by 1 game a little faster and more consistently, and they did it on some mixed down situations.

“They kind of played off of some of their run-pass tips, and they did a good job of calling it that way. We were good on some and not good on others. When we’re not good in terms of the play call there, it exposed us in space. That’s on me. I’ve got to be better longer.”

While Desai has done some good things this season — and there have been really strong moments — the overall product hasn’t been great. The Eagles have the No. 22-ranked defense in the NFL and the No. 29-ranked passing defense.

What might bother head coach Nick Sirianni most about his defense is how bad they have been situationally.

Through 13 weeks, the Eagles have the worst third-down defense in the NFL, giving up conversions 47.3% of the time. The second-worst third-down team in the league? Jonathan Gannon’s Cardinals.

The really scary thing is that the Eagles aren’t good in 3rd-and-long situations either, giving up first downs on 29.3% on 3rd-and-7 or longer, ranking eighth-worst in the NFL. They goal is to get teams into 3rd-and-long and go hunting but even that hasn’t worked.

The Eagles have given up more first downs (29) on 3rd-and-7 or longer than any other team in the NFL.

They’re not good in the red zone either. The Eagles are 29th in red zone defense, allowing touchdowns on 68.3% of drives that get inside their 20.

Those are two ares the Eagles desperately need to fix immediately against the Cowboys, who rank second in the NFL on third downs but are 17th in red zone success.

“It’s a high focus, and it’s going to get even higher,” Desai said. “We’ve got to do a better job as a staff and coaches and myself leading the staff in those areas. And we will. We will do a better job there.

“It’s about being more consistent for longer. The last few trips down into the red zone, we’ve gotten them to third down. Then we’ve lost on third down. We’ve got to just do better and put our guys in better position to go ahead and execute down there.”

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