Welcome to another installment of Behind the Numbers, the new series I put a lot of work into but nobody reads! Regardless, I enjoy analyzing the stats and writing about the games each week, so deal with it. Before I begin, I gotta throw a shout out to Brian Dawkins, whose #20 was officially retired last night.
Right off the bat I have to mention the most alarming stat of the game. NO EAGLES TURNOVERS!!! After racking up 12 through the first 3 weeks, the Eagles managed to protect the ball for all 4 quarters against the Giants. This proved to be key, as nobody scored until after the 2 minute warning in the first half. The game ended with a low score, so any Eagles turnovers would have been amplified. The lone turnover of the game -another red zone interception by Eli Manning- resulted in an Eagles field goal. Winning the game by only 2 points, this proved to be the difference. Winning 19-17, the Birds are in sole possession of first place in the NFC East, at 3-1. Let's take a look at the stats:
On paper, this game shouldn't have been as close as it was. Although the Eagles and Giants had similar stats, the Birds clearly were the better team. Offensively they outgained the Giants by over 50 yards, despite gaining less through the air. Their average gain was 6.2 (to New York's 6.0), they ran 7 more plays, and converted 13% more third downs. The real alarming offensive stat, however, is brought to you by LeSean McCoy; he gained a whopping 121 yards on the ground in the 2nd half. The Eagles gained nearly 200 rushing yards, and once again held their opponent to under 100 (57). The rush defense forced the Giants to rely on Eli to pass the ball, which ended up costing them points when he threw a red zone interception.
Despite the Giants tendency to pass, the Eagles shockingly did not record a sack. I'm not kidding, they didn't have a single sack. The Giants only had 2, which is also quite surprising. This game could have ended with 15 sacks between the teams and nobody would have been surprised. The Eagles secondary was slightly exposed (two 30+ yard passes on a 4th quarter NY TD), but held their ground as the G-Men were never able to get in a groove. At the end of the game the secondary was called for 2 pass interference calls (the "real" refs weren't much help on one of them), but buckled down and forced the Giants to settle for a long field goal attempt. Speaking of penalties; only 3 others besides the 2 PI calls at the end. Along with the lack of turnovers by the Eagles, this was a much cleaner game.
It's no surprise that in the 3 Eagles wins this year they have won the time of possession battle. I had heard some analyst before the game (Ike Reese maybe?) say that if they controlled the ball for 33 minutes, they'd win the game. Looking at the chart above, that analysis was spot on. Obviously that isn't the only indicator, but so far it's 3 for 3 even with all the turnovers. However, the offense still needs work. It took the Birds (and the Giants) nearly the entire first half to have a sustained/scoring drive. After this it was all money though, as the Eagles scored on their last 5 real drives, which was good for a 55% scoring percentage, easily the best of the year. But red zone offense? Only 1 touchdown in 4 chances, good for only 25%. Luckily they came away with 3 field goals from the other possessions, but this game could have been much easier if they scored a TD on even one of those drives. Nothing stupid from Michael Vick -who played a great all around game- so I can't complain too much.
All in all, a good solid game by the Eagles. Let's give them a B. Clearly room for improvement, but easily the cleanest game so far. The offense will have to find a way to maximize their scoring next week against the tough Steeler's D, but I definitely think it's a winnable game for the Birds. Hopefully they play more like they did against the Giants, and less like they did against the Cardinals. Just give the ball to McCoy and it's a win.
-I didn't even realize they released punter Chas Henry. Oh well, he played well the first game and fell flat after that. Matt McBriar seems fine.
-While we're on special teams, what the hell happened to that kickoff coverage? Awful.
-Still on special teams; Alex Henery continues to kick well in place of David Akers. 4 field goals of any length isn't easy.
-Even though the offense fared better than the Giants, they didn't seem as dominant compared to the other wins. Turnovers really screwed them up, yet when they don't turn it over the offense doesn't produce as much. Go figure.
-Really liking the rush defense by this team, and with the exception of the last TD drive for the Giants and the PI calls, the secondary wasn't awful. Not great, but by no means bad.
-Give the ball to Shady!!!
(Giants at Eagles PDF)
Last week vs. Cardinals: L, 27-6
Next week at Steelers: Sunday 1pm