For 58 minutes on Monday night, the story was going to be about how Matt Patricia, the Eagles’ new de facto defensive coordinator, held the Seahawks to 13 points as the team held on to get a big conference win on the road.
Didn’t quite happen.
Instead, the Seahawks mounted a 92-yard, back-breaking, game-winning drive at Lumen Field to hand the Eagles their third consecutive loss.
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“Yeah, I mean, obviously I would take it all back,” Patricia said on Thursday at his first press conference since the promotion last week. “That drive starts with me, and I’ve got to do a better job to get them in position to get us off the field and obviously help us win. I think our guys played really, really hard. I was really proud of the way they went out and give praise to them for what they did. Tried to play aggressive. Tried to play physical up front. Covered really well. Obviously, the two-minute drive wasn't good enough. That's me.
“I got to get some things in there, calls in there, whatever it may be, to help them a little bit more so they can go out -- and obviously give them credit, too. They made a great play, too. They're a good football team. But I’ve just got to do a better job.”
The Eagles quietly made a defensive coordinator switch last week, demoting Sean Desai after 13 games (and a 10-3 record) and handing over the reins of the defense to the 49-year-old Patricia, who has been a defensive coordinator and a head coach before in the NFL.
Patricia doesn’t have the DC title but he does have the power. Even if he doesn’t want to talk about it.
“I think it’s always collaborative,” Patricia said on Thursday. “We meet and talk and have different ideas and thoughts. Certainly, like I said, it was a great opportunity for me it kind of learn the defense that Sean was building, but really, it's the Eagles' defense. It's the 2023 Eagles. That's what we're trying to develop.
“I think every year in football things change a little bit and schemes change based on people and the personnel you have. Certainly, I think that's what we’ve been trying to do through the course of the year.”
Thursday was the first time Patricia has spoken to a group of reporters since the Eagles quietly hired him late in the 2023 offseason. The soft-spoken longtime NFL assistant walked into the Eagles’ auditorium at the NovaCare Complex and introduced himself to everyone in the room before getting behind the microphone.
Patricia mentioned the collaborative process a few times on Thursday. And, sure, it is a collaborative process. But if the Eagles wanted the status quo on that side of the ball, they wouldn’t have made the drastic switch.
We saw some differences with the Eagles’ defense on Monday night in Seattle, although Patricia did bring up the point that matchups often dictate scheme in a single game. But we saw a deeper and more varied rotation on the defensive line, the increased use of sub packages with more defensive backs, some zone blitzes and other signs that Patricia is now in charge of the Eagles’ defense.
Of course, Patricia took over in December with just four games left on the schedule. There’s not enough time to completely flip the scheme and head coach Nick Sirianni admitted as much this week.
“You're not necessarily going to see complete wholesale changes at this point of the year,” he said, “but you'll see some different things here and there, and the offenses will see some different things here and there.
“Obviously for competitive advantages I'm not going to get into all the different things or pretty much any of the different things that you're going to see, but there will be differences. But, again, we're going to stick with some of the core things that we've done, and we've done well through the first 14 weeks of the season.
“Like I said, it's a group effort by our defensive staff. Matt is just the one that's making the main decision now. Sean still has a voice in there, and our assistant coaches still have a voice in there. We're just trying to refine what we do well and continue to do what we do well and eliminate some of the mistakes that we've made.”
During the first 13 weeks of the season, Patricia had a utility-man role. His title with the Eagles has been senior defensive assistant but he said he has been helping on defense, on offense with his old friend Jeff Stoutland and even on special teams. He has also been a sounding board for Sirianni, who values the input from the only former NFL head coach on his staff.
But for at least the rest of this season, Patricia’s role will with the Eagles will be de facto defensive coordinator. And one of his most important jobs will be to call defensive plays to the green dot on game days.
Patricia said throughout his years in the NFL, he has “morphed” as a play-caller.
“I think sometimes with the play caller part of it you go to different experiences that you've had in those situations,” Patricia said. “Sometimes in the moment there are different instincts that kick in, like I'm feeling this. A lot of that happens in-game, probably because of something that experience has taught you, usually in a negative way in the previous years.
“You try to draw on those as much as I can. All we do to get ready to call the game is do the best we can to put the players in the right situations to be able to go play fast and aggressive. I think when you don't do that as a coach, that's where you feel the worst. That’s when you feel really horrible that I didn't give that person a chance to be successful on that play.”
For 58 minutes in his debut as the Eagles’ play-caller it seemed like Patricia did a pretty good job of all that. It’s just that final drive that cost him. But there are still three regular season games and the playoffs for Patricia to turn it around.