Philadelphia Eagles News

How Can The Eagles Fly Out Of The Gate?

With 7:27 remaining in Sunday night's game, Carson Wentz connected with Zach Ertz in the back of the end zone on a crucial third-and-goal situation to tie the score at 20-20.

It capped off back-to-back game-tying touchdown drives for the offense in the second half and gave the Eagles a chance to pull out a win despite trailing 13-3 at halftime.

The offense was in rhythm. So, it was fair to wonder where was that offense in the first half of the Eagles' 27-20 loss to Dallas on Sunday night. While the Eagles put up points late, the slow start was just too much to overcome.

The first drive started with a three-and-out. The first play of the second drive was an interception. When head coach Doug Pederson met with the media Monday, he explained the disappointment with the slow start and the use of up-tempo offense early to combat it.

"Just to generate a spark," Pederson said. "It goes back to the opening couple series of the game, I mean, four plays and we're not doing too well. Three-and-out and an interception. So, I wanted to get the offense a spark just a little bit and get them on track."

The Eagles have scored just 21 points in the first quarter all season. They were shut out in the first quarter of seven of the Eagles' nine games.

The 14 first-quarter points against the Giants in Week 3 allowed the Eagles to have their only game with 30 or more points this season. The other seven points came against Indianapolis in Week 3 on Wentz's first drive of the season.

Pederson said the first 15 plays of the game are scripted and practiced each week. The ineffectiveness of these plays has contributed to the slow starts.

"That's solely on me. And I base it based on the film," Pederson said. "In the case of some of our struggles, it has just been, just our execution. Just sustaining a block or the read by the quarterback or – and to me, that's kind of where if there's an urgency moment how we start games, that's where the urgency, I think, coaches, players, everybody involved really needs to sort of heighten so that we can stay on the field and go down and score points."

The Eagles are last in the league in first-quarter rushing, averaging just 16.8 yards per game. In addition, two of Wentz's three interceptions have come in the first quarter as well as two fumbles.

Sunday night's game was also the first one for the Eagles after the bye week, often the cause of rusty starts. Against the Cowboys last year after the bye, the Eagles trailed 9-7 at the half and looked out of sorts. In the second half, they outscored Dallas 30-0. They weren't able to match that this year.

"I think it's probably evident by the way we played yesterday," Pederson said. "You go back a year ago when we played Dallas down there, we started that first half very sluggish, very slow. … and then we took off in the second half. So, I think that was a little part of it yesterday.

"You try to prepare your team, you talk to your team about those things during the week, you educate your players on, 'Hey, you're coming off a long break. It's been two weeks.''

Whether it's a matter of establishing a rhythm or a sense of urgency, the Eagles need to figure out how to put points on the board early and avoid playing catch-up – especially this week against the Saints. New Orleans ranks second in the league in first-half points with 175 while the Eagles rank 25th with 80.

When facing a prolific offense that ranks first in quarterback completion percentage and rating, as well as rushing touchdowns, a quick start will be crucial to keep pace.

"I think the wins and losses just come down to execution and what we're seeing and how we react in the game and we need to make more plays," Pederson said. "Just our heightened awareness has to be sort of all-in, especially when we start games."

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