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Spadaro: Rev it up out the gate! Fast starts critical to early-season success

Brotherly Shove
Brotherly Shove

The goal is to start fast in every game, to find an early rhythm, and in this 5-0 Eagles beginning of the 2023 season, Philadelphia has done just that. Philadelphia is averaging 7.2 points in the first quarter of the five games (tied for fourth in the NFL) and has carried that early success into halftime leads in all but one outing.

Let's take a look at what the Eagles have done to get things going in the early portion of games ...

Week 1 at New England

Philadelphia took the opening kickoff and drove down the field methodically, mixing the run and pass, and eventually had a first-and-goal at the New England 9-yard line. That's where the drive stalled, but Jake Elliott came on to kick a 32-yard field goal and the Eagles were off to the early lead.

Then the defense made its move, an example of excellent complementary football that has been a trademark of this team's outstanding start to the campaign.

On the Patriots' seventh offensive play, cornerback Darius Slay intercepted quarterback Mac Jones's tipped pass and returned it 70 yards for a touchdown to push the Eagles ahead, 10-0. On New England's next offensive possession, defensive tackle Jordan Davis jarred the football loose, linebacker Zach Cunningham recovered, and four plays and one penalty later, quarterback Jalen Hurts tossed a 5-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver DeVonta Smith and the Eagles had a 16-0 advantage.

Week 2 vs. Minnesota

Again, the Eagles opened on offense and promptly moved right down the field on their first possession. And just as at New England, the Eagles moved into the red zone and had a first-and-goal situation from the 10-yard line, but could not punch the ball into the end zone. Elliott's field goal put the team ahead 3-0.

Philadelphia took control of the game late in the first half, driving 75 yards in 16 plays and scoring on a Hurts sneak to go up 10-7 after Elliott's PAT, and then the defense forced a fumble out of bounds in the Eagles' end zone from Minnesota's Justin Jefferson late in the second quarter. The offense moved into Elliott territory, and he bombed a 61-yard field goal to end the half and give the Eagles a 13-7 lead heading into the third quarter.

Week 3 at Tampa Bay

For the only time this season the offense failed to score on its first possession, but the Eagles put together a scoring drive the second time it had the ball, taking advantage of Britain Covey's 52-yard punt return to start a drive at the Tampa Bay 44-yard line. The Eagles picked up two first downs before the drive stalled and Elliott kicked a 36-yard field goal to put Philadelphia ahead, 3-0.

Philadelphia then had a couple of takeaways in the second quarter and outscored the Bucs 10-3 in that period to lead, 13-3, at the half. The Eagles then started fast in the second half, driving 75 yards in 13 plays on its first possession to score a touchdown and go up, 20-3.

From there, the Eagles just continued to dominate on their way to a 3-0 start.

Week 4 vs Washington

The game was eventually settled on Eliott's 54-yard field goal in overtime, but the Eagles started the right way offensively with a 12-play, 75-yard drive capped by D'Andre Swift's 5-yard touchdown run.

It's probably not fair to lump this game in with rest, as the Eagles fell behind 17-7 in the second quarter and trailed for the only time to date at halftime, 17-10. But the Eagles then scored on their first three offensive possessions of the second half to take a lead and set things up for a wild, wild finish and a 4-0 record.

Week 5 at Los Angeles

Twelve plays, 75 yards, six first downs, a touchdown pass to tight end Dallas Goedert to open the game and take a 7-0 lead over the Rams. A cross-country flight isn't easy and you always wonder about jet lag, but the Eagles showed none of that as they traded early touchdowns with the Rams, fell behind in the second quarter, and then had a lightning-fast 4-play, 75-yard drive that included a personal foul and a pass-interference penalty in the end zone against the Rams (26 yards in all) to help Philadelphia get into position to punch the ball in on a Hurts sneak from the 1-yard line on the final play of the first half. The Eagles used that 17-14 advantage and took it into the third quarter on the way to their most convincing win, 23-14, over a dangerous Rams team.

"You always want to start fast," Head Coach Nick Sirianni said. "You kind of get into a groove, so that's what we hope for when we script things and prepare for a game. It makes a difference."

It sure does, and the Eagles look to keep the early momentum going on Sunday against the Jets, another road game with thousands of Eagles fans again expected to be on hand.

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