Coming off of their bye week, in control of the NFC East to start the second half of the season, the Eagles dug themselves an early hole at MetLife Stadium and couldn't dig out in a 27-17 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday. Some of the numbers in a frustrating game stood out and told the tale of the defeat.
1. The offense failed to convert a third down as drive after drive stalled. For the first time since the 2004 season – November 7, 2004 at the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 27-3 loss – the Eagles didn't convert on third down. They were 0-for-9 on Sunday (one of their third downs was converted on a Giants pass interference penalty in the second quarter). "Too many third-and-longs," Head Coach Doug Pederson said. "It's hard to overcome. We've got to do a better job on first and second down. Too many third-and-longs." The ledger on the distance on third down for the offense – 1, 3, 1, 4 (converted via penalty), 11, 14, 11, 18, 10, 10. The average (not counting the penalty conversion): third-and-9.
2. New York opened the game with touchdown drives of 85 yards and 75 yards, establishing the running game with quarterback Daniel Jones executing the read option and running backs Wayne Gallman and Alfred Morris pounding the middle of the Eagles' defense. New York rang up 151 yards on 36 carries, staying ahead of the sticks and giving New York a chance on third down. Jones took advantage as the Giants converted 5 of 14 third downs and one of their two chances on fourth downs. The Eagles made some adjustments to slow Jones on the zone-read runs, but he still ended up leading New York with 64 yards on nine carries.
3. Penalties were costly. Defensive tackle Malik Jackson jumped early on a third-and-8 play, giving New York a manageable third-and-3 play, which the Giants converted. In all, the Eagles committed 11 penalties for a loss of 74 yards, including two false starts from the wide receivers. That's tough to take for a veteran team that had a bye week and that, even on the road, had no crowd noise to worry about.
4. Field position was a challenge for the Eagles' offense, which never started a drive beyond its 25-yard line. In the first half alone, the Eagles started possessions at their 9-yard line, 6-yard line, and 11-yard line. Of their six possessions in the second half, the Eagles started at their 16-yard line, 17-yard line, and 5-yard line. The offense didn't have much in the big-play department on Sunday, so being saddled with terrible field position made it even harder to put points on the board. New York punter Riley Dixon was effective, averaging 53.3 yards net (and gross) on his kicks, all inside the 20-yard line. The Eagles tried Jalen Reagor in the punt return game and then used Greg Ward, but neither of them had a chance to return a punt.
5. And as much as the Eagles wanted to limit Jones in the running game, they wanted to beat him in the pocket as well. The defense sacked Jones three times, but he was solid in the pocket, completing 21 of 28 passes for 244 yards, averaging 8.7 yards per passing attempt, a big number. He got the ball out quickly at times and at other times he just set up and beat the Eagles' secondary with some pretty deep throws. His receivers helped him out, too, going up to beat cornerbacks Avonte Maddox and Nickell Robey-Coleman on a touchdown drive that grabbed back the momentum after Philadelphia closed the gap to 14-11 early in the third quarter. New York promptly drove 75 yards in six plays to put the ball in the end zone and take a 21-11 lead.
6. An offense that welcomed back running back Miles Sanders, right tackle Lane Johnson and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery from injury just couldn't get untracked and could not make any "chunk" plays against New York's soft zone defense. Boston Scott ripped off a 56-yard touchdown run, but the biggest gain in the passing game was 22 yards to tight end Richard Rodgers. Wide receiver Travis Fulgham had one reception for 8 yards on five targets. Jeffery was targeted once, with no catches. Tight end Dallas Goedert had only four catches for 33 yards. Sanders had 15 rushing attempts for 85 yards, but he had a couple of dropped passes as a receiver.
7. Quarterback Carson Wentz completed 21 of 37 passes for 208 yards. He was sacked three times. He didn't have a chance to make any plays with his legs. Three times Wentz had receivers open and he threw the ball high. There was some pressure, sure, and the good news is that Wentz didn't have any turnovers, but the offense put up on 17 points and lacked explosiveness in the passing game.
Overall, it was an extremely disappointing performance. The Eagles had a chance to put more distance between themselves and the rest of the NFC East, but it didn't happen and now the Eagles play five straight games against teams – Cleveland, Seattle, Green Bay, New Orleans, and Arizona – with plus-.500 records. The hope is that the Eagles raise their level of play against these playoff-bound teams, but who knows with the Eagles? Sunday's game mirrored so much of what we've seen this season – a slow start, a disadvantage on the scoreboard, and the inability to sustain any kind of momentum.
"It is frustrating. We're not where we want to be. Personally, I hate losing and it frustrates me. I go back and look at the tape as hard as anybody and go through with a fine-tooth comb and see, 'Where can I get better?' As a team, we all do the same thing. It is frustrating to be where we're at, but at the same time, we've got no choice. We've got no choice but to bounce back," Wentz said. "We've got another good football team ahead of us next week. We're going to learn from this one. We're frustrated. We're going to learn from it and we're going to come back and attack next week."