When this offense is really clicking, the Eagles score early and set the tone. They've been a prolific first-quarter-scoring team in the Andy Reid Era -- 85 first-quarter points in 2008, 122 in 2009, 110 in 2010 and 76 last season -- and the offense has put up big point totals each year.
In fact, the Eagles for three straight seasons from 2008 to 2010 set franchise marks for points scored -- 416 in 2008, 429 in 2009 and 439 in 2010 -- and that early fuel set the stage. The drop off last year -- from 110 points in the first quarter of 2010 games to 76 in the first quarter of games last season -- was measured right on mark with the decrease in the first quarter of games.
This year's slow start to quick starts is alarming, then. The only first-quarter touchdown came against Baltimore, following a first-drive turnover when Michael Vick threw an interception in the end zone to thwart the Eagles' opening salvo. On the Ravens' first offensive possession, Trent Cole sacked quarterback Joe Flacco and forced a turnover, and Vick and Co. came back on the field and converted with a touchdown.
The Eagles went on to have their best offensive performance of the young season, three more turnovers notwithstanding.
It wasn't a coincidence that early scoring success carried through for the entire game.
And it is a priority of the offense to get back on the scoreboard in the first quarter, starting Sunday against the Lions.
What's the answer? It's execution, no doubt about it. The Eagles have moved the ball early in games -- the opening drive in Cleveland reached Browns territory before LeSean McCoy's fumble, Vick threw an interception against the Ravens, the offense went three and out in Arizona and against the Giants and then the Eagles picked up 41 net yards and 3 first downs in Pittsburgh -- and yet they haven't scored a point.
How much of a difference would it have made last week, for example, had the Eagles scored some points in the opening drive? Or on the drive that ended when Vick fumbled into the end zone? Instead of playing from behind ...
The Eagles have used their no-huddle offense to try to spark the early attack and the tempo seems to have helped, but still only one touchdown. The turnovers have been problematic, of course, and penalties have stymied drives.
"Get some points and get it rolling," said McCoy after the game in Pittsburgh. "That's what we need to do. Build some momentum, you know? It helps the offense."
History suggests it sure does. The numbers tell the tale, so the task is for the offense to put points on the board in the first quarter and see what it means for the rest of the game against Detroit.
The Eagles have tried running the football early -- handoffs on the first play in each of the last two games -- and they've tried the long ball on the first snap of the game. They've put together a handful of first downs and strung together some impressive drives.
At some point, the offensive fortunes will turn toward the positive and the offense will soar. There is too much talent here to go along with a system that has proven itself over time for the offense to remain so low in the rankings (the Eagles rank 31st in the league in points scored, averaging just 16 points per game).
We're waiting for the eruption. Sunday would be the perfect time to start strong and stay that way in a crucial game against the Lions.