This was a tough game to swallow, with a subpar performance coming off the bye week in a game that could have put the Eagles in a somewhat commanding lead in the NFC East. Instead, the Eagles now hold just a half-game lead in the division with a bad taste in their mouths, going into a rough stretch of the schedule with a bunch of quality teams over the next few weeks.
Ultimately, this game came down to two key phases of the game – third down and field position. We know the Eagles went 0-for-9 on third down, and (per usual) third-down issues are typically rooted in negative plays on first and second down, which create long third-down attempts. The average to-go distance for the Eagles offense on third down was 9 yards. That's tough to overcome.
Going a step further, losing the field position battle was really impactful. The Eagles did not start a drive beyond their own 25-yard line in this game. They started six drives inside their own 17. New York, on the other hand, had half of that, and actually started three drives in Eagles territory.
When you're consistently working with long fields, offensively, and then not converting on third down – on top of that – you're in a tough spot. You need to either convert on fourth down, or you need to create big chunks on first and second down. That's what the Eagles did on their three scoring drives. Field position isn't an offensive stat. It's not a defensive stat. It's a team stat, and that includes special teams. Penalties, mental errors, negative plays, poor tackling, poor execution, and even more result in poor field position. The Eagles, across the board, need to improve in these areas to get back on track.
Offensively, one aspect of the game that impressed me was the rushing attack. I thought Miles Sanders looked good in his return. He ran hard, looked decisive, and picked up yards in bunches. One scheme, in particular, that I thought he looked particularly comfortable in was their Wham-Trap scheme.
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This concept has been a staple of the Eagles' rushing attack under Doug Pederson, and here's the beauty of it. If I were to say that you could block a defensive tackle with a tight end, you would probably say that's a mismatch in favor of the defense, right? Well, the block, the angle, and the element of surprise play in the offense's favor, and it helps create a well-defined hole for the back that also features an offensive lineman, center Jason Kelce in this case, getting up to the second level. In addition to the good block by the tight end, but the offense gets a favorable block with a center up on a smaller linebacker. It's important for the ball carrier to trust that the hole is going to open, and Sanders did that on both of these runs for first downs.
Another concept that was effective for the Eagles' offense was their Run Pass Option package. This isn't one specific run play, but it's the use of the concept of the RPO that was useful for the Eagles in this game.
The Boston Scott touchdown run was a great example of the RPO in action. The backside linebacker was slow to come downhill. Quarterback Carson Wentz read off of him, handed it off to Scott, and Scott dashed toward the sideline. Kelce delivered a great block on the perimeter, and it was curtains from there. The Eagles gained an advantage in the other two plays by making the defense wrong through the use of box-counting and/or reading an unblocked defender. According to Pro Football Focus, the Eagles run the third-most RPO plays (65) in the NFL, and I would anticipate that trend to continue moving forward.
There was one run that was also of the read-option variety that stood out to me, but this was more of an individual play by Sanders.
This was a play where it appeared that Jalen Hurts would read a defender and either hand the ball off to Sanders or follow a couple of lead blocks through the hole on the right. The ball ends up on the ground at the snap, though, and Sanders makes a really heads-up play. Not only does he pick the ball up, but he then runs behind the blocks designed for Hurts on the play, rather than just taking off to the left in the direction he was initially heading.
Through nine games, the Eagles are fourth in the NFL in yards per carry (5.12). Obviously, that's affected by two HUGE runs by Sanders against Pittsburgh and Baltimore, a pair of carries that went for 155 yards combined, but the run game has been effective.
On the defensive side, the run game again impacted the Eagles. It's not the traditional rushing attack though. The Eagles are second in the NFL, allowing just 3.3 yards per carry to opposing running backs. However, against non-running backs, the Eagles have allowed 358 yards on 7.6 yards per rush – both figures are worst in the league. Against the Giants, the zone read was once again an issue.
Going back to Week 7's win over New York, Daniel Jones ran 80 yards on a basic zone-read play. On the opening drive this Sunday, he reached the end zone on another zone read, except this one had a couple of added wrinkles by accounting for a couple of playside defenders with a crack block on T.J. Edwards and a lead block coming from the back side. These are unique to the NFL, and it was a creative way to get Jones home for a touchdown against the Eagles' defense.
Later in the game, the Giants ran the same play, but they couldn't fool the Eagles again. Edwards made a great play, diagnosing the action in the backfield and pressing the line of scrimmage, erasing two blocks and forcing Jones to settle for a minimal gain.
Edwards had a nice game overall against the Giants. Of the linebackers, I thought Edwards had the best day. His play recognition and competitive toughness showed up multiple times.
Fran Duffy is the producer of the Emmy-nominatedEagles Game Planshow which can be seen every gameday during the season on NBC10 in Philadelphia. He is also the host of two Eagles-related podcasts,Eagle Eye in the Sky, which examines the team from an X's and O's angle each and every week as well as theJourney to the Draft podcast, which covers college football and the NFL Draft all year round. Fran also authors the Eagle Eye in the Sky column, which runs four times a week during the football season to serve as a recap for the previous game and to preview the upcoming matchup. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging, and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team's games, practices, and opponents.