Philadelphia Eagles News

Is Offense Ready To Hit Its Stride?

Maybe it was just time. Maybe the Eagles broke out offensively against New Orleans on Sunday with 519 total net yards and 39 points and 34 first downs because the new faces just found their sync and their familiarity with the system. 

Or maybe it's something deeper.

"We just executed up front," center Jason Kelce said after beating New Orleans 39-17. "That's the biggest difference. We just did our jobs better."

In theory, yes, Kelce is right. The Eagles simply played better football, to a man. Along the offensive line, no doubt, that was the case.

But there is always more than meets the eye, The Eagles moved the ball up and down the field on an overmatched Saints defense and only a few self-inflicted wounds -- the Eagles were just 3-of-7 in the red zone -- kept Philadelphia from scoring 50-plus points.

A lot of things went right for an offense that entered the game ranked 30th in the NFL in the running game and 26th in the passing game. Let's take a look ...

Sam Bradford Had It Going Early In The Game

Two interceptions in the end zone marred what was a really strong start-to-finish performance from quarterback Sam Bradford. A short- and mid-range passing attack had New Orleans flummoxed from the first drive. Bradford was decisive and he was quick to get the football out of his hands.

Bradford moved well in and out of the pocket and took what was there from the Saints' defense -- 13 of his 32 completions were to running backs DeMarco Murray (7), Ryan Mathews (5) and Darren Sproles (1). Tight ends Zach Ertz and Brent Celek combined for eight catches, 104 yards and a touchdown.

Bradford has improved a lot since his first snap of the season. He's obviously shaken off much of the rust from his two sidelined seasons in St. Louis. And we're seeing him find his groove.

The Running Game Was Outstanding

Murray and Mathews were the 1-2 punch the Eagles envisioned when they signed both in free agency. Murray contributed 83 rushing yards and another 37 in the passing game. Mathews ran for 73 yards and kicked in 44 more as a receiver. Both players scored a touchdown and displayed power and speed running downhill against the Saints.

Does it matter which one carries the football? Their styles are similar and both fit into what head coach Chip Kelly is looking for in a back. They are complete players.

Yes, the offensive line deserves a lot of the credit for the success on Sunday. That group, as Kelce said, had its best game of the season by far. It all starts along the offensive line, particularly for the running game.

Sproles was a change-of-pace addition to the ground attack with five carries and 27 yards as the Eagles ran for a season-high 186 yards.

Points After Takeaways: Eagles Get It Done

Entering Sunday, the Eagles had taken the football away nine times and had scored just 21 points off of those turnovers. That's not an impressive number. Against New Orleans, the Eagles had four takeaways and they converted them into 23 points. That's how it is supposed to work.

It's an important statistic for Kelly and it's one that made a big difference on Sunday. Fletcher Cox's first sack of quarterback Drew Brees led to a field goal late in the second quarter to put the Eagles ahead 10-7. Another Cox sack and forced fumble (which Cox recovered) was turned into points a play later when Bradford threw to tight end Brent Celek for a touchdown and the Eagles led 23-10 and the rout was on.

Taking the football away is great and the Eagles have done a good job of doing so defensively this season. The ability to turn those takeaways into points is what allowed the Eagles to pull away from New Orleans and make it an extra special Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

Success On First Down

Of the team's 519 total net yards, a staggering 349 yards came on first down, an average of 7.9 yards per play. Bradford's 41-yard touchdown pass to Josh Huff came on first down. His scoring strike to Celek of 13 yards was a first-down snap. Mathews had a first-down run that gained 33 yards. A completion to tight end Zach Ertz on first-and-10 gained 21 yards. Bradford completed a throw to Jordan Matthews for 18 yards on a first-and-25 play. Murray had a 9-yard run on first down, and 15 more yards were added to the play on a facemask penalty called against New Orleans.

The Eagles weren't as good as they want to be on third downs -- they converted only 4-of-11 third downs and were 0 for 2 on fourth downs -- but the big chunks of yards gained on first downs made the difference.

There were plenty of other things that went right for the offense on its breakout day. All five starting offensive linemen played every snap for the first time in 2015. Some formation variations led to success as the Eagles lined Bradford under center more than they had all year. Some tendencies were broken, indicating a strong self-scouting process for the coaching staff.

And with the Giants coming in for Monday night, the Eagles are going to continue to have to play at a high level. New York has allowed the most passing yards in the NFL through five weeks and has recorded only four quarterback sacks. But the Giants can score points in bunches and they are two blown fourth-quarter, double-digit leads away from being undefeated.

As it is, New York is 3-2 and this game represents a battle for first place in the NFC East. The Eagles have a chance to get all square at 3-3 after a 1-3 hole, and to do so the offense must continue to improve and find success moving the football for 60 minutes. The signs are there that the offense the Eagles had in mind when they changed so many pieces in the offseason is about to hit its stride and stay there. Monday is going to be a telling night of football.

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