Notebook: Ball security a top focus

The Eagles have improved their ability to jar the football away from offensive players, and that was on dramatic display when they had to have a win Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys. See where the Eagles stand in that category and what head coach Brad Childress and Andy Reid had to say on the topic.

The Eagles are focused on stopping Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, but the Vikings are hoping the running back comes out ahead in the game of turnovers.

Peterson's nine fumbles this season represent an NFL high among running backs, and the Eagles are known for their aggressive defense.

On Sunday afternoon, the Eagles entered their game against the Dallas Cowboys knowing that a series of events had occurred that would allow them to get into the playoffs if they beat Dallas. Philadelphia manhandled the Cowboys, using five turnovers to assist them in a 44-6 win.

"I thought the turnovers were huge, five takeaways was crucial. I could go through and point out different guys, but overall I thought it was just a great defensive performance of playing as a complete defense," said Philadelphia coach Andy Reid.

Four of those five turnovers were fumbles that the Eagles recovered, making Peterson's attention to securing the ball a top priority on Sunday.

Peterson fumbled once on Sunday, but the Vikings recovered.

"I thought he did a decent job with that," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "I hate to see that ball down on the ground and he needs to protect it, but by and large he didn't change his running style. You see him churning and digging and I want him to be himself."

The Eagles have dramatically improved their ability to poke the ball out and recover it since last season. Overall, they have 29 takeaways, 10 more than last year, and they are among the league leaders in forcing and recovering fumbles.

They are tied for fifth with 14 fumble recoveries and tied for seventh by forcing 26 fumbles this season. Among the best at it, according to Childress, is safety Brian Dawkins.

"Brian Dawkins is as good as there is. He's a big hitter, so he can dislodge it. He's going to rake it, pull it and usually he's going to arrive angry when he gets there," said Childress, who knows all about Dawkins from his seven years of coaching in Philadelphia. "He's probably as premier a guy as there is. Sheldon Brown is a tough (guy) out of the back end. I'm not as familiar with those guys in the front, but I know they coach that extensively."

Creating turnovers on defense has helped the Eagles excel overall as a defense of late. They have given up just 40 points in the last four games and, since giving up 219 yards rushing to the New York Giants on Nov. 9, they have given up just 77.8 yards per game on the ground in the last seven games.

Childress said he expects the Eagles to come after every skill-position player with an attempt to jar the ball loose.

"That's the way they do business," he said.

For the Vikings to stay in business beyond the opening round of the playoffs, Peterson likely will have to limit his fumbling ways and continue to be the league's most productive running back when he does hang onto the ball.

"Brad has one of the best, if not the best, running back in the National Football League right now, maybe the MVP of the National Football League," Reid said. "He's given him the ball a lot and I understand that. He's a heck of a player."

NOTES

  • Kicker Ryan Longwell was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week after hitting a 50-yard, game-winning field goal with no time remaining against the New York Giants. Longwell also hit a 48-yard field goal to open the scoring in that game. He is six-for-six on field goals of 50 yards or longer this season, and it was the third game-winning kick of the year for him. This is the seventh time in his career he has won the NFC honor and the second time as a Viking.

  • The Vikings gave up 135 rushing yards Sunday to the New York Giants, the most since allowing Green Bay 139 in the season opener. The Giant's offensive line had a lot to do with that.

    "They're unbelievably good. There's no question that's the best offensive line we've seen this year. Atlanta was really good," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "Ours every day in practice is really good. But I think the Giants is the best we've seen as far as that first half, being a cohesive unit, kind of doing it all with pass and run block. They were physical all day. The Eagles, I haven't seen a lot of them but I do know they're bigger up front than we've seen. They're probably not the same type of run game that we've seen the last couple of weeks, but I do know they're good at what they do."

  • The Vikings signed Wisconsin kicker Taylor Mehlhaff to a reserve/futures contract this week. Teams throughout the NFL have been signing young players to futures contracts, which means they will start training at the practice facilities when that team's offseason program begins. Those players don't count against the 2008 roster limits or salary cap.


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