The Philadelphia Eagles’ struggles continued Sunday, as the team lost to the Carolina Panthers and blew a 17 point 4th-quarter lead along the way. They fall to 3-4 on the season and sit at third in a fairly tight NFC East race.
What is the cause of the Eagles’ struggles? Why has a team that lost a total of three games last season (and won the Super Bowl) struggling around a .500 record this year? While they have much of the same talent as last year, Philadelphia has struggled to close out games. In addition, some of the key aspects of the game that favored the Eagles last year have gone against them this year.
Here are some reasons the Philadelphia Eagles are at 3-4 and how they can turn their season around:
Red Zone Play
In 2017, the Philadelphia Eagles were the number two red zone offense, having scored touchdowns on about 67% of their red zone opportunities. This year though, they are number 15 in the league, with TDs on only 56% of drives into the red zone.
Philly has had to settle for field goals on far too many red zone appearances. This drop in red zone touchdown percentage is a huge part of the Eagles’ scoring drop this year. Last season, they scored an average of 28.6 points per game, seventh best in the NFL; this year through the first seven games, that figure has dropped to 22 points per game. This is 21st in the league, below the NFL average. Considering every game they lost has been by a single possession, 6-7 points per game is significant.
For example, in Sunday’s game against the Panthers, they had the ball with about one minute left in the red zone and had to score a touchdown to win the game. However, they were not able to score or get a first down, thereby dropping the game.
Converting red zone opportunities into touchdowns could the difference between being at the top of the NFC and where the Eagles are right now. If Philadelphia can improve in this area, the team will have a great shot of making a run into the playoffs.
Takeaways (or Lack Thereof)
Another reason for the Eagles’ struggles this year has been the drop-off in takeaways. Takeaways are extremely important because they change the momentum of the game and flip the field. They allow the offense to potentially have short drives to score easy points.
While Philadelphia is on pace to have about the same number of turnovers as last season, their take/give differential has fallen. Last year, the Eagles’ defense produced 30 turnovers over the whole season. This year, though, they have only six takeaways over seven games, on pace for fewer than half of 2017’s number.
A lot of this is due to being unable to convert on chances for interceptions. Philly has dropped potential interceptions at a high rate this season; converting on these chances will improve their chances of winning games.
Inability to Close Games Out
Six of the Philadelphia Eagles’ seven games, including all four of their losses, have been decided by one possession. In two of these four losses, Philly had a 17 point lead and was not able to close their opponents out.
Sunday against Carolina, they entered the fourth quarter with a 17 point lead. After allowing Carolina to come back and bring the game with three points, the Eagles got the ball back. However, they were not able to keep the ball and had to punt it away after a three-and-out. After Ronald Darby was not able to complete a potential game-sealing interception on first down, they held the Panthers until fourth down. However, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton connected with Torrey Smith on 4th and 10 for 35 yards to keep the drive alive. The Panthers would score the game-winning TD later on that drive on a pass to Greg Olsen.
Against the Tennessee Titans in week four, the Eagles also blew a 17 point and eventually lost in overtime. They allowed the Titans to convert twice on 4th and long during the game-winning drive.
Last season, Philadelphia did not put themselves in a situation to blow leads. If they held a large lead, they kept scoring and made sure to keep distance on the scoreboard. In fact, over the three games the Eagles lost last season, they held a lead for a total of 3 minutes and 12 seconds combined. This shows that even when Philly lost, it was not due to blowing leads.
The Eagles would be in a much better position if they had just been able to hang on to leads. Instead of sitting at 3-4, they would be 5-2. The team needs to stay focused even when they take leads and put their opponents away.
Featured image by Delaware Online
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