Let's break down Sunday's game with some numbers, courtesy of the great John Gonoude of the Eagles Media Relations Department. John works hard to put together a Birds Eye View each week ahead of the game, and in it he cobbles together some timely facts and figures. Here is what jumped out at me this week:
EAGLE IN FOCUS
The focus is on running back Jay Ajayi, who has put up some impressive numbers since 2016. Ajayi's 2,207 rushing yards since then rank sixth in the NFL behind Ezekiel Elliott (2,683), Le'Veon Bell (2,559), Jordan Howard (2,517), LeSean McCoy (2,427), and Todd Gurley (2,298). I showed the list to Ajayi on Thursday at his locker at the NovaCare Complex. He shook his head. He studied the list. He shook his head again.
"Yeah, it's good, but I've got to be honest with you. I see people in front of me, names in front of me," Ajayi said. "For me it's always about trying to be better, trying to be the best. So until I'm the first player on that list, I've got to keep working. That's how I look at it."
Ajayi's two rushing touchdowns last week tie him with three other players (James Connor, Steelers; Isaiah Crowell, Jets; Alvin Kamara, Saints) atop touchdowns scored by running backs this season.
"It takes a certain nose, a knack, to get into the end zone," Ajayi said. "I take a lot of pride in that. I want to be a hard-nosed, tough runner that gets the ball in those situations. I'm always striving to put the ball in the end zone."
BY THE NUMBERS
- Since 2002, the Eagles are 20-12 against NFC South opponents, a winning percentage of .625. That's impressive stuff against a division that is very good. The Eagles play Tampa Bay and New Orleans (November 18) on the road this season and have already defeated Atlanta. Carolina visits Lincoln Financial Field on October 21.
- The Eagles scored 228 points in away games in 2017, which marked the third-most points scored on the road in team history.
- In the Week 1 win over Atlanta, the Philadelphia defense limited Atlanta to one touchdown in five red zone opportunities, a 20-percent conversion rate.
- Including playoffs, the Eagles are 19-3 (.864) in their last 22 games, including 16-2 in their last 18 games. That's the best stretch of success since the 2003-2004 seasons.
- Nick Foles (more on him in a minute) is 8-5 in road games as an Eagles starter. His first win? At Tampa Bay on December 9, 2012.
- Fletcher Cox led the way last week as the Eagles compiled four quarterback sacks of Matt Ryan. Cox recorded 1.5 sacks, as did linebacker Jordan Hicks. Chris Long was officially credited with one sack.
"They mean a lot to me. Sacks equal stacks," Cox said. "I don't set any personal goal for each season, but we know that sacks are hard to come by in this league. Sacks happen and we all work hard to get them and we know what they mean. You appreciate them when they happen. I know that some people rate us by the number of sacks, but if you really know football, you watch the tape and you see who is playing well. I may not have the biggest sack numbers in my career but go watch the film and you see that I am either causing a sack or being disruptive and helping someone else get one."
Cox's highest single-season sack total is 9.5, recorded in the 2015 season. He's off to an excellent start as he dominated Atlanta last week.
- The Eagles are 10-8 all time against Tampa Bay, winning three of the last four games in the series.
- Philadelphia is 3-1 at Raymond James Stadium.
- Foles is 2-0 against Tampa Bay, winning both games on the road. He engineered a game-ending drive to beat the Bucs in 2012 and then came back the next season and completed 22 of 31 passes for 296 yards in a 31-20 win. In two games, Foles is 54-for-82 passing against Tampa Bay with five touchdowns, zero interceptions, 677 yards, and a passer rating of 111.7. Foles has fond memories of that 2012 win.
"I remember there was a timeout called, we had a play called. It was a long drive and we had one play left and I remember something hit my brain, hit my gut – that happens to me at times – and I ran over to Andy Reid and said, 'Hey, can we do the sprint-out?' and he said, 'Go do it.' I knew, once again, 'If I call a play, this better work,'" Foles said. "I remember (former Eagles wide receiver Jeremy) Maclin making an amazing catch, barely getting his feet or knees in and just the feeling of waiting to see if it really happened, if we really got that victory, just how special that was."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
- Defensive end Brandon Graham (38.5) needs one sack to tie Andy Harmon for the sixth-most sacks in Eagles history. Reggie White leads the way with 124 sacks. Trent Cole is second with 85.5, followed by Clyde Simmons (76), Hugh Douglas (54.5), and Greg Brown (50.5).
- Tight end Zach Ertz (3,712) needs 78 receiving yards to tie Brian Westbrook for 13th on the franchise's all-time list.
- Foles is 131 yards away from reaching 10,000 passing yards in his NFL career, 90 passing yards shy of tying Norm Van Brocklin for the ninth-most passing yards in Eagles history, and four passing touchdowns away from tying Van Brocklin and Adrian Burk for the ninth-most passing touchdowns in team history.
Those are the numbers. Something to chew on between now and the 1 p.m. kickoff in Tampa. The next number to tackle? The exact number of fans who will attend this game wearing Midnight Green. The number will be in the thousands. If you aren't there, you'll hear them no matter where you are.