What’s wrong with the Eagles? Doug Pederson on Wednesday boiled it down to two things he believes are holding the Eagles back the most:
1) A lack of takeaways, and
2) Poor offense in the red zone.
The difference between the 13-win Super Bowl champs and a third-place team sputtering along at 4-5 is not that great, Pederson believes:
Listen, we’re very close. We’re so close in a lot of areas. You look at our output and our production offensively, we’re very similar to what we were last year. We’re plus 30 passes down the field. Explosive passes, I think we’re second in the National Football League, we’re sixth at 20-plus explosive plays. Third downs, we’re within a percentage point or two of being where we were a season ago. The difference is creating turnovers on defense and then scoring in the red zone. That’s kind of what’s staring at us right in the face. And time of possession’s good, all those things we look at. Red-zone defense has been good throughout the season. We’ve got to finish better and we have to score more points.
Let’s take a look at those two key areas.
As Dave Zangaro wrote this week, takeaways are down dramatically.
The Eagles have generated just seven takeaways, fewest in franchise history after nine games and third-fewest in the NFL (ahead of only the 49ers with five and the Buccaneers with six).
The Eagles have gone three straight games without an interception and they have just one in their last five games. They’ve had a franchise-record seven straight games with one or fewer takeaway and they have just four since Week 3.
The Eagles last year finished fourth in the NFL with 31 takeaways, just three fewer than the NFL-leading Ravens.
Last year, the Eagles led the NFL with touchdowns on 71 percent of their red-zone drives, and they averaged 5.6 points per red-zone drive.
This year, those numbers have dropped to touchdowns on 54 percent of their red-zone drives (22nd) with an average of 4.8 points per red-zone drive.
Let’s examine some of Pederson’s other figures:
Although he is correct that the Eagles are close to last year on third down — 41.7 percent last year, 41.2 percent this year — the league average has increased dramatically, from 38.7 percent last year to 40.3 percent this year.
So after being 3 percent over the average last year, they’re less than 1 percent over the average this year.
Time of possession
Eagles led the NFL at 32:41 last year and are second at 32:22 this year. Virtually the same.
Doug’s numbers are a little off regarding big plays. The Eagles were 11th last year in offensive plays of 20 yards or more (62) and 12th in plays of 30 yards or more (24).
This year, they’re 21st in plays of 20 yards (34) and eighth with 16 plays of 30 or more yards (16).
Sacks are up from one every 15.7 pass attempts last year to one every 12.6 passes this year. Rushing average has dropped from 4.5 to 4.1. And first downs per game are actually up – from 21.1 to 22.6.
The Eagles actually have done a lot of things well. Some things even better than last year.
But in those critical moments when games are won or lost, they are coming up small.
They have the talent to pile up stats all over the place and keep every game close, but they've have put together only one complete game.
And if things don’t change soon? The 2018 Eagles are destined to be forever known as a frustratingly, agonizingly, consistently underachieving football team.
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