June 24, 2024

On Christmas Day, the Philadelphia Eagles were playing the New York Giants, and when they found themselves up 3rd and 20 early in the fourth quarter, the Lincoln Financial Field crowd was anything from calm.

They were about to lose their cool.

The spectators had seen New York rally back into the game even though the Eagles held a 20-3 advantage at the half. Early in the fourth quarter, Adoree’ Jackson’s spectacular pick-six and the two-point conversion had put the score 20–18. The Eagles were about to go three–and–out on their next possession, and the crowd sensed it.

At that point, quarterback Jalen Hurts stepped up both symbolically and practically, producing the kind of game-changing play you expect from one of the

This link is nearly unmanageable in terms of difficulty. Hurts is forced out of position early in the play by an interior trick from the Giants, but he steps up and climbs the pocket, buying some time for the vertical routes to develop downfield. A.J. Brown finds room along the right sideline with the Giants in zone coverage, but Hurts has to avoid the danger of Isaiah Simmons lurking in the curl/flat zone between him and his target.

To get the ball over Simmons’s outstretched hands and into Brown’s strong hands for the first down, the quarterback releases exactly the right amount of air on the throw.

The touchdown gave the Eagles a new set of downs and eased the nervous fans.

As expected, D’Andre Swift’s five-yard touchdown run to cap off the drive gave the Eagles a nine-point lead once more. On their subsequent possession, they would increase their lead by three points after Jake Elliott’s field goal. With a 30–18 advantage, Philadelphia supporters began to unwind.

However, that’s when the Giants became trapped again. After taking over for a struggling Tommy DeVito during the game, Tyrod Taylor surprised everyone by connecting with Darius Slayton on the longest play of the season—a 76-yard touchdown pass. The Giants were suddenly back in the game.

The Eagles led by nine points again after D’Andre Swift’s five-yard touchdown run to end the drive. After Jake Elliott’s field goal, they would extend their lead by three points on their next possession. With a 30–18 lead, Philadelphia fans started to relax.

But that’s when the Giants found themselves back in a bind. During the game, Tyrod Taylor relieved a struggling Tommy DeVito, and to everyone’s amazement, he connected with Darius Slayton on the longest play of the season, a 76-yard touchdown pass. Suddenly, the Giants were back in the game.

Brown wasn’t by himself. DeVonta Smith expressed his personal dissatisfaction with the Eagles’ performance. Smith caught a touchdown pass in the victory; more on that play will be discussed shortly. “I’m not content. Indeed, we’ve won eleven. I’m not content,” Smith remarked. “It must be improved. We’re nowhere near what I want to do, what everyone else wants to do, or what we want to be, therefore I’m not pleased.

Near the end of the game, Sirianni had a “discussion” on the sidelines with Jeremiah Washburn, the defensive line coach for Philadelphia.

“I often become animated. There are certain things that need to be done, such trying to start a conversation when mistakes are made. That occurs all during a game. It will take place between coaches and players, coaches and coaches, and players and players.

However, we are able to move on swiftly because of the connections and relationships we have. The coaches and players are aware that our only goal is to help each player perform to the best of their abilities.

That can happen with a yell or a smack on the butt depending on the situation.

What might be underlying the frustration? Certainly the Eagles’ recent results could be a big reason why. A few weeks ago the Eagles were 10-1, and on the cusp of clinching the NFC East as well as closing in on the top-overall seed in the conference. However, three-straight losses, coupled with this underwhelming victory over the Giants, have seen the frustration mount.

Their internal angst can also be boiled down to a single number.

That is the Eagles’ point difference this year, which is significantly less than it was last year. With a point difference of 133 a year ago, the Eagles were third in the league, behind only the San Francisco 49ers and the Buffalo Bills. In that statistic, the Eagles are currently eleventh in the NFL, behind NFC rivals like the 49ers and Dallas Cowboys.

They also behind the New Orleans Saints, a team that might not even make the playoffs, and the Detroit Lions, a team they might face in the postseason.

The Eagles’ season has just been more difficult this year, and it appears that their enormous margin for error from the previous year has all but vanished.

Something that

My dear friend JP Acosta dove into this in his own analysis of what ails the Eagles a few weeks ago, noting that a season ago Hurts was “ … 176/220 on passes between the numbers, and much more efficient across the board.”

Now this year, ahead of their game against the Giants, Hurts was “… 130/165, a paltry number compared to where Hurts was last year.”

That game did not bolster his numbers. For comparison, look at Hurts’ spray chart from Christmas Day against the Giants:

He threw most of his passes in the direction of the sidelines. The touchdown to Smith described earlier was the only pass that occurred in between the hashmarks.

The other pass, which occurred at the right hashmark, was this play-action completion to Brown:

Everything else travelled farther down the pitch or towards the outside. Some, including JP, have compared the Eagles’ offensive scheme to that of James Harden, saying that everything is either a layup or a deep three. The Eagles are either depending on passes to the outside and/or screens towards the boundary, which need strong blocking and/or players forcing defenders to miss in space, or deeper throws downfield, which have a lower completion rate.

It comes back to the margin of error once more. That appears to be modest for the Eagles right now.

Regarding a potential solution, Eagles supporters have been demanding more running game action in recent weeks, and there is data to back up their claims. Grab

In terms of EPA/Rush, the Eagles’ rushing assault is among the top in the league. With only the 49ers, Ravens, and Bills having a higher “success rate” on rushing plays, they rank fourth overall.

They rank seventh in terms of passing play success rate.

The Eagles have demonstrated this in the past. Hurts made his full-time debut in 2021, and Philadelphia capitalised on his running game in the last stretch of the season to surprise everyone by making a deep run into the playoffs.

Will that recur in the final stretch and postseason?

We could. But as January draws near, it appears that the Eagles are still searching for solutions at this time. Perhaps they can discover such solutions in time for another in-depth

 

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