They are all working to find answers. The offense is struggling early and not finishing late in games. The running game hasn’t been as productive as the team wants. The red zone play has been up and down.
Solutions are needed. Not finger pointing.
Where do the Eagles go from here after Sunday night’s 27-20 loss to Dallas dropped them to 4-5 and two games behind Washington in the NFC East? They’re going to need to be at their very best on Sunday against the 8-1 Saints in New Orleans, and this season’s results suggest that it’s going to be very difficult to slow down the pace of the game and beat New Orleans in a low-scoring game. The Saints are explosive and complete on offense, averaging more than 36 points per game.
Can the Eagles win a shootout against the Saints? Does playing against such a high-powered offense change the mindset or approach of the Eagles’ offense? Offensive coordinator Mike Groh says no. The mindset is the same: Put the ball in the end zone.
“It doesn't in the fact that we feel like we want to score a touchdown every time we have the ball,” Groh said on Tuesday at his weekly press conference at the NovaCare Complex. “We're not trying to take any series off. Obviously, we know they're playing at a high level, and we understand the challenge in front of us. But our goal each and every time we run out there is to score a touchdown.”
The Eagles haven’t played at a consistently high level offensively, even with quarterback Carson Wentz playing outstanding football. Wentz has completed 71 percent of his passes with 15 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. The Eagles are averaging 22 points per game, ranking in the bottom third of the NFL.
Clearly, the coaching staff is not happy with the point production. They’re working on solutions to the slow starts, to the poor finishes.
It’s not an easy fix.
“Sitting here with the record that we have, we're not pleased with where we stand, and we have aspirations to compete for the playoffs,” Groh said. “I think that we're still in the playoff hunt, and we can do that. We've talked about some of the things that need to improve to give ourselves the best chance to do that.”
What’s going to change? The Eagles will certainly further wide receiver Golden Tate’s integration into the offense and they’ll explore tweaks to the scheme and the play calling. Running back Josh Adams, the impressive rookie, could get more touches.
But at the end of the day, it’s going to come down to execution and precision. The Eagles can ill afford to waste opportunities against a Saints team that has played better defense than many know since the New Orleans offense overshadows everything there.
“We know that we have to score points, more than we’ve done,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “It comes down to making the most of our chances. We’ve left some plays out on the field. We can’t continue to do that and expect to win games and when you’re playing a team like the Saints, you know they are going to put pressure on you with that offense. We have to play good football.”
Said Groh of the Saints' defense: “They're playing really well. I mean, obviously they're keeping the (opponent’s) points down and they're getting the ball back for their offense. They've got some talented players over there. Again, it's going to be a challenging environment. It's going to be loud. We've got to get a good plan put together and have a good week of practice and go down there and play Eagle football.”
Only once (against the Giants) this season have the Eagles scored more than 24 points in a single game. They may have to score 35 against a Saints team that moves the football up and down the field at will. Perhaps the Eagles will try to control the clock and play keep-away from the Saints. Maybe everything the Eagles have wanted through nine games clicks in Game No. 10.
That’s the hope. With only seven games remaining, the waiting is over. The Eagles need points, and they need them now.