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Fast Start Is Eagles' Winning Formula

Posted Nov 17, 2017

The numbers jump off the page - Eagles 64, opponents 12. When you start games the way the Eagles have in 2017, good things happen. Starting fast has been critical to the team’s success to date ...

The numbers jump off the page - Eagles 64, opponents 12. When you start games the way the Eagles have in 2017, good things happen. Starting fast has been critical to the team’s success to date.

“You always want to start fast and finish strong,” tight end Zach Ertz said. “I think we’ve been doing that.”

While the Eagles have been outscored 83-74 in the fourth quarter of games this season, the numbers are skewed given some of the team’s blowout victories. Getting off the right way is what the Eagles aim to do on Sunday night at Dallas.

The Eagles rank first in the NFL averaging 7.1 points per game in the first quarter, and they’ve allowed the fewest points per game in the first quarter, 1.3. Dallas has allowed 4.3 points per game in the first quarter, 18th best in the NFL.

What does it all mean?

“It’s a lot better to play with a lead than play from behind,” wide receiver Torrey Smith said. “It just is. You can stay in your offensive flow and stick to your game plan. That’s the goal for every team. Take a lead and sustain it.”

So here’s what you’re going to see on Sunday night: The Eagles want to win the coin toss and then defer until the second half. They think the defense is equipped to stop Dallas from the jump and give the ball to the Eagles' offense in good field position.

And then … it’s Carson Wentz time.

“We have a balanced offense so we feel like we can dictate,” running back LeGarrette Blount said. “We’re just going to take what the defense gives us. You get later in the season and you know the running game is more critical so we have a lot of confidence in everything we do.

“Of course you want to score every time you have the football, but that’s not going to happen. We’re going to be aggressive, but we also have to be patient. It’s going to come for the offense. It’s just a matter of time.”

The Eagles' offense has been spectacular – leading the league in several categories including most touchdowns and best red zone touchdown efficiency. How will they react coming off the bye week? How long will it take for the Eagles to get into gear and be sharp?

A full week of practice, hopefully, is enough to get the rust off.

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“We’re going to be ready to play,” right tackle Lane Johnson said. “I think everybody has been itching to get back on the field. It feels like we haven’t played in a long time, so we’ve all been so excited this week to get together and play football.

“If you practice the right way, which we do, you take it out to the game and just keep playing the way you’ve practiced.”

While the Dallas defense won’t have linebacker Sean Lee and perhaps safety Jeff Heath – who rank first and second on the team in total tackles this season, respectively -- the Cowboys do have an aggressive front four, led by end Demarcus Lawrence, who leads the NFL with 11.5 quarterback sacks. David Irving has six sacks. Tyrone Crawford is tough inside. Dallas brings energy and effort up front.

The Eagles have to match that urgency.

“They’re good,” center Jason Kelce said. “They give you different looks and they move guys around. They’re very sound. They can be a handful. It’s a good scheme and they’ve had a lot of success disrupting offenses.

“I go back to what I believe every week: If we play our game and handle our assignments the way we’re supposed to, we’re going to be fine. That’s what it really comes down to. We have to execute our assignments. It’s about us, not them.”

What’s going to be the early plan, then? Do the Eagles look to get it rolling with Blount, Jay Ajayi, and Corey Clement in the running game? Do they get Ertz, back after a one-game absence because of a hamstring injury, into the flow right away? Maybe Wentz tests the deep side of the Dallas secondary and takes a shot down the field on the first possession?

Whatever, it’s important to start fast. The Eagles have done it better than any team this year, a prime reason they are 8-1 heading into a game that could go a long way toward deciding the NFC East title.

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