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Red Zone Success Key To 12-2 Record

Posted Dec 20, 2017

There are many reasons why the Eagles are 12-2, and all of them are valid. Balance in the offense has been impressive. The giveaway/takeaway ratio is among the league’s best. Special teams has had a big hand in many of the wins, two (both Giants games) specifically. Here is a reason that is part of the equation, a big one at that: The offense’s performance in the red zone has been the best in the league, and it’s not even close …

There are many reasons why the Eagles are 12-2, and all of them are valid. Balance in the offense has been impressive. The giveaway/takeaway ratio is among the league’s best. Special teams has had a big hand in many of the wins, two (both Giants games) specifically. Here is a reason that is part of the equation, a big one at that: The offense’s performance in the red zone has been the best in the league, and it’s not even close.

In 52 trips inside the opposing red zone, the Eagles’ offense has 35 touchdowns and 11 field goals, for 46 scores. The Eagles put points on the board 88.5 percent of the time, with a league-best 67.31 percent of those red zone trips resulting in a touchdown. Oakland, Monday's opponent, is second in the league with a 64.52 touchdown percentage.

Quarterbacks Carson Wentz and Nick Foles have combined to throw 28 touchdown passes and zero interceptions in the red zone, taking one sack with only two giveaways - a Foles fumble on a snap in garbage time from the Chicago 19-yard line in the blowout win over the Bears and the Wentz fumble out of the end zone in Seattle.

The other four times the Eagles failed to score in the red zone? Two missed Jake Elliott field goals - at Kansas City and at Dallas - and two times late in wins when the Eagles allowed the clock to run out.

In all, the Eagles have scored 276 of their NFL-high (tied with Los Angeles Rams) 438 points in the red zone.

Remarkable.

“It has been one of our biggest priorities all season,” said tight end Zach Ertz, who has eight touchdown catches, all in the red zone. “We’ve worked extremely hard at improving our performance in the red zone and detailing our work and it has paid off.”

Wentz was injured in the win at the Rams after throwing 24 red zone touchdowns during the season and Foles, in his first start of the season, went out and tossed four touchdown passes, all in the red zone, to help beat New York last Sunday.

Clearly, it’s working for the Eagles. They improved their offensive playmakers in the offseason (and in-season with the addition of running back Jay Ajayi) and have gotten great play from the offensive line, timely and effective play calls from head coach Doug Pederson with a smart and effective red zone scheme design.

Both Wentz and Foles have shown patience and trust with their decision-making in the red zone, not forcing throws and making sure to take care of the rock.

“Red zone is huge. Obviously, when you get in the red zone you want a touchdown,” Foles said. “It’s hard to win games, especially on the road, but any time when you get in the red zone, get that close, you just come away with three (it hurts). I think, just with this team, it goes back to preparation, fine-tune the details, and the guys put a little extra time, whether it’s running a route, studying, or just understanding that specific concept and based on the coverage we’re seeing what we want when it comes to game time.

“An example would be Alshon Jeffery seeing a guy overplaying a route and snap back (in the other direction as he did against the Giants). Zach Ertz crossing face (of a defender when he caught a touchdown pass on Sunday) or Nelson (Agholor) running with a guy, knowing he has man coverage, running with speed to get the guy to turn his hips, and know that he can’t get his eyes back.

“Those things, guys focus on and work on and those fine details in the red zone are the difference between a touchdown and an incompletion or a field goal.”

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Foles starts Christmas night against the Oakland Raiders, a team against whom he threw an NFL-record-tying seven touchdown passes in 2013. There is no real link from that game to now, but there is a reason to note the difference in red zone offensive performance: The Eagles of 2013 had one of the most prolific offenses in the league, but not in the red zone. They were 13th in the NFL in touchdown efficiency inside the opponent's 20-yard line (53.23 touchdown percentage), and it cost them in the playoff loss to New Orleans.

In that game, the Eagles scored touchdowns on three of their five trips inside the New Orleans 20-yard line, but they also missed a field goal on a drive that reached the New Orleans 15-yard line and later in the game failed to put the ball in the end zone after reaching a first-and-10 play at the New Orleans 16-yard line. New Orleans won the game, 26-24, the last time the Eagles played in the postseason.

“We work on it every day and we know how important it is,” Jeffery said. “The mindset is to score touchdowns. That’s the first goal. Getting points is important and you just want to avoid turning the ball over. Every point counts in this league. A lot of games are decided in the red zone.”

At 12-2, a lot has gone right for the Eagles through 14 games. An entire roster has raised its game to overcome the loss of so many injured players who were key to the big-picture outlook of this team. Not to be pooh-poohed is the difference the team has made converting red zone trips into touchdowns. The team with the best record has had the best success in the red zone. It’s not a coincidence.

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