It was the same old song and dance for the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday when they dropped an overtime game to the Detroit Lions, 26-23. The formula for their defeat was the same as it has been for just about every game this season, win or loss:
Turnovers plus sacks allowed plus no running game equals a close game.
It just so happens that, yesterday, the result of this getting-old-quick formula was a close loss and not a close win.
The loss drops the Eagles to 3-3 on the season, one game behind the New York Giants for the lead in the NFC East division and tied with the Washington Redskins. It’s not a terrible place to be at this point in the season, but the team – players and coaches alike – have a lot of figuring out to do. Lucky for them, they’ll have an extra week of rest and preparation since they’re on Bye next week.
Among the items that need to be ironed out:
• The running game: Sunday’s game against the Lions was different than other games this season in that the Eagles were having no success on the ground, so you can’t blame the coaching staff for not handing it off more often. RB LeSean McCoy averaged only 1.6 yards per carry (14 carries, 22 yards), clearly his worst output of the season. The Eagles need to find more consistency out of the running game overall, both with the actual production on the field and the coaching staff’s dedication to it.
• Turnovers: The Eagles rank last in the NFC with a -9 turnover differential. The only team in the NFL with a worse mark is the Kansas City Chiefs (-15). With those numbers, it’s actually a shock that they’ve been able to win 3 games. They’ve turned the ball over 17 times this year (second only to the Chiefs). The Birds turned the ball over three times against the Lions on Sunday and managed only one takeaway. Keep at this pace and Philly can expect to finish the year .500 at best.
• Michael Vick: There’s really no way to sugarcoat this – Vick has been subpar. His completion percentage has been OK (58.9%) and he’s thrown for a lot of yards (1,632, on pace for 4,352), but he’s been sloppy with the ball. He’s already turned the ball over 11 times, including 8 interceptions (on pace for a career high 21). That offsets the fact that he’s also on pace for a career high 21 touchdown passes. He’s got to be more careful with the football and throw the ball away when he’s pressured. It’s not time to call for Nick Foles to start, but Vick still needs to improve, and quickly.
• Defensive pressure: After recording 7 sacks in their first 3 games, the Eagles have gone without one in their last three games. That lack of pressure has allowed teams to come from behind for victories in two of those three games; the only game they won in that stretch happened because the New York Giants missed a field goal as time expired. They blew a one-point lead to the Pittsburgh Steelers with 6:33 left two weeks ago, and they blew a 10-point lead to the Lions with 5:18 left on Sunday. More defensive pressure on the quarterback would help them keep leads.
The Eagles are at a crossroads right now, and they can use this Bye week as a way to re-group, re-focus and hit the ground running. It’s going to be essential that they straighten things out quickly, because they have four tough opponents after their Bye – home to the Atlanta Falcons, at the New Orleans Saints on Monday night, home to the Dallas Cowboys and at the Washington Redskins.
The good news is that what has plagued the Eagles so far is well within their control to fix. Now, they just have to do it.