Eagles

Eagles

The pattern keeps repeating itself, and the Eagles can’t do anything to stop it.
 
They look sluggish early, commit a turnover or two, fall behind, fight like crazy to get back into it, then fall short.
 
The Eagles are the worst first-quarter team in the NFL.
 
They’ve scored an NFL-low 21 first-quarter points, and they’ve been blanked in the first quarter in seven of their nine games.
 
They’ve scored one touchdown in the first quarter of their five home games.
 
Sunday, in a game against their fiercest rival on national TV in their home stadium, the defending Super Bowl champs opened the game with a three-and-out, a turnover and a punt.
 
They watched as the Cowboys built a 13-3 lead and even though they tied the game twice, the Eagles never recovered from their latest sluggish start.
 
“It’s something we talk about each week, trying to start fast,” Doug Pederson said. “Obviously, it's not getting done.” 
 
How bad is it?
 
• The Eagles were third-best last year in both the first quarter (7.4 ppg) and first half (14.0 ppg). Those numbers have dropped to 2.3 ppg in the first quarter and 8.9 in the first half.
 
• In the last 25 years, the Eagles have scored fewer first-quarter points through nine games only twice — in 1998 (20) and 2012 (14). Their head coach was fired after both seasons.
 
• The Eagles are averaging just 3.4 yards per rushing attempt in the first quarter, ahead of only the Colts and Titans. That figure goes up to 4.2 the rest of the game. 
 
• They have just 31 1Q first downs. Only the Giants (29) and Cards (25) have fewer.
 
There are two clear problems here: Play-calling and execution. 
 
Pederson scripts the first 15 plays, and that’s exactly when the offense has been at its worst.
 
And Carson Wentz has just been unable to start fast. Of 29 quarterbacks who’ve thrown at least 40 first-quarter passes, his 81.4 passer rating is sixth-worst.
 
Let’s look at Wentz by quarter:
 
1Q: 64 percent, 41 yards per game, 2 TDs, 2 INTs, 81.4 rating

 

2Q: 69 percent, 81 yards per game, 4 TDs, 0 INTs, 115.8 rating

3Q: 77 perecnt, 64 yards per game, 5 TDs, 1 INT, 122.0 rating

4Q: 74 percent, 49 yards per game, 4 TDs, 0 INT, 109.8 rating
 
Overall, Wentz’s numbers are incredible. But he’s part of the reason the Eagles have gotten into big early holes.
 
“I personally do not feel different (early in games),” he said Sunday night. “Some people say that you want to settle in, but I don’t feel that way. I don’t want to talk about last year, but it is something we did really well last year. It’s really hard to put your finger on why it is the way it is this year. A lot of it is just a little execution things that are a great deal. We have to get back and look and see what teams are doing to us early in the game, why are we having these slow starts, and really need to look hard in the mirror because I think tonight, that is what cost us.”
 
The Eagles have run 21 first-quarter drives this year with these results:
 
12 punts
4 turnovers
3 touchdowns
2 missed field goals
0 field goals


 
“We have too many weapons not to score touchdowns in the first quarter,” Zach Ertz said. “We just have to start fast. It’s not like we’re going into games and being surprised by what the defense is doing. They’re doing what they do. They’re not really doing anything out of the ordinary when we play teams. 
 
“Going into the game we’re very confident with what we have called. In the second half, typically we get rolling. We just have to find solutions because we have a really big game this week. There’s no other way to put it.”
 
Clearly, Pederson and Wentz miss Frank Reich and John DeFillippo.
 
By falling behind early every week, the Eagles continue giving their opponents confidence and life and momentum.
 
The slow starts are one of the biggest reasons the Eagles find themselves in the mess they're in today.

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