Monday, September 8, 2014

Eagles vs Jaguars: Behind the Numbers 2014

**For those new to BTN, be sure to check out previous installments every week by clicking the tag below each post**

Yesterday marked the opening day of the 2014 NFL season for the Philadelphia Eagles, so today marks the return of Behind the Numbers! The game against the Jaguars was certainly a tale of two halves (how many times have you heard that already?) but in the end the Eagles won in a blowout 34-17. Even though they were down 17-0 at the half, the game never really felt out of reach; what will the numbers say?

A few obvious things stand out here, namely rushing yards, first downs, 3rd down %, and turnovers. Some are expected, like offensive plays, net yards, average gain, and passing yards. Others like penalties were pretty similar between the Jaguars and Eagles, and basically a non factor in the game.

For a team that was down 17-0, it's somewhat surprising that they out-rushed their opponent by over 80 yards. For a team that has LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles, it becomes a little less surprising. Over a quarter of Philly's offensive plays resulted in first downs (24/82) and they fared very well on 3rd downs, converting 42% versus just 14% for Jacksonville. If the stats are any indication, this is where the game was won. Converting 3rd downs allows the offense to stay on the field and sustain drives, which is something the Jaguars could not do consistently.

The team that usually wins the turnover battle wins the game, but that was not the case here. The Eagles Nick Foles turned the ball over 3 times in the first half resulting in 14 (nearly 17) points for the Jaguars. That was just about all the offense they could muster, and the Birds managed to capitalized on their only turnover by scoring a touchdown.

Much like last year, the Eagles had a larger average gain than their opponent, this time averaging nearly a yard better than the Jaguars. They ran 11 more plays than Jacksonville (partly due to the turnovers), which resulted in over 100 more net yards (420 to 306). This included an expected total for passing yards, as the Eagles amassed 322 to 266 for the Jags.


Of the stats shown above, here's the Eagles and Jaguars offensive numbers in just the second half:

Yeah not much to point out about that, but it does do a great job explaining why Philadelphia won this game.I'll try to discuss the offense as a whole game rather than one half, but it was way too easy to forget about the first half offense. Regardless, there was room for improvement. Nick Foles looked awful in the first half, and was responsible for all 3 of the team's turnovers (2 fumbles, and an interception). That was not all his fault though, as the offensive line allowed 5 sacks. He never should have thrown that ball in the endzone, however. Both Foles and the O-line (despite losing ) vastly improved during the second half, and played near perfect football.

Darren Sproles (71 rushing yards) showed us what he can do on offense, tearing off a (career high!) 49 yard TD run on a 4th and 1 play while down 17-0. I am loving Chip Kelly's gutsy play calling, though never would have expected a TD on the play. LeSean McCoy was somewhat held in check mostly due to playing from behind, but still accumulated 74 rushing yards and 41 receiving yards.

On the receiving end, Jeremy Maclin looked great in his first game since 2012. He was wide open on a 68 yard TD pass, and finished with 97 yards. Zach Ertz looks to be the real deal, as he caught 3 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. Despite losing a certain player after last year, Foles looks like he has plenty of options again. And I didn't even mention Riley Cooper.


The Jaguars are not expected to be a great offensive team (or a great team period for that matter) but the Philadelphia Eagles defense performed very well overall. 17 points was a TD more than I expected, but keep in mind all those points were in the first half, and 14 of them were the result of turnovers. Perhaps most surprisingly, the Birds defense stepped up on 3rd downs, limiting Jacksonville to just a 14% conversion rate. Not surprisingly was how well the rush defense played, as they continued their excellent play by allowing only 64 rushing yards the entire game (keep in mind this was even with a 17-0 lead). Hell, there was even a pass rush this game, as the defense picked up 3 sacks. Standouts included Mychal Kendricks (6 tackles, sack), Fletcher Cox (6 tackles, fumble recovery for TD), and Brandon Boykin (5 tackles). Trent Cole and Nate Allen chipped in with 2 tackles a piece, and a forced fumble and sack respectively.

Overall the defense did an OK job at containing Jacksonville, as they only allowed 3 plays over 20 yards (compared to 6 for Philly's offense). That being said, those three plays were all passes, so there is certainly room for improvement in the secondary. And despite the Eagles D letting up 2 touchdowns in the first quarter, the silver lining is that they were both on short fields for the Jaguars after turnovers. The worst drive for the Birds was probably when the Jags notched a field goal after being pinned on their own 1 yard line.

Special Teams

It didn't take long for us to see why we picked up Darren Sproles. While he contributed well enough to the offense, he was really a standout on punt returns. He averaged 15.5 yards on 4 returns, and was close to breaking off a couple. The Eagles punt team wasn't too bad either, with punter Donnie Jones kicking 5 punts inside the 20 (no touchbacks), one of which Brandon Boykin downed on the 1 yard line.

Alex Henery who? New kicker Cody Parkey looked great, recording 5 touchbacks (all 7 of his kickoffs were in the endzone) and making a 51 yard field goal look easy. He added another FG and 4 extra points, for a 10 point day. On the 2 kickoffs that were returned by the Jaguars,
both failed to reach the 20 yard line. Average field position on kickoffs for the Jags? 18 yard line. Oh, and the Eagles blocked a 36 yard FG that would have put them in an even bigger hole. Special teams gets an "A" for this game.


-Decided to eliminate the Time of Possession graph. It wasn't that interesting visually, and can easily just be mentioned as needed when it affects the game. I may keep track of it in this section, since it can still be indicative of the game's turnout. However, I will probably include a second chart/graph when applicable, as I did this week.
-TOP: Barely in favor of the Birds at 30:46 vs 29:14 for the Jags. 1-0 predicting the winner so far.
-Shout-out to my friend Brett who brought up a good point after the game. It may actually have been good that the Eagles were down 17-0 at the half; it forced them to play much better in the second half in order to win, and it proved to them that they can come from behind. If the Birds had won in dominating fashion the whole game, what would they have learned from the win?
-Despite the miserable start, the Eagles scored on 5 of 14 real drives. All 5 came in the second half, with 3 of 3 drives resulting in scores during the 4th quarter.
-Philadelphia continued their trend of short drives from last year, as the longest drive took up 4:10 of clock.
-Speaking of being down 17-0, that was mostly due to turnovers as you can see above. Without the 2 fumbles and end zone interception, the Eagles could easily have been up 7 or more to 3.
-Listened to some sports radio in the middle of writing this, and have one thing to say. Man, do they find anything to complain about. The team wins with a poor first half and a dominating second half, but guess what they focus on? Apparently a 17 point blowout just isn't good enough!
-Ponder this: If the final score was still 34-17 but the scoring was spread out a bit more, would anyone be complaining about this game? My guess is no.
-Since I started BTN back in 2012, this is the 3rd consecutive opener the Eagles have won. Also, the 3rd time that the games started out poorly but ended with a W.

(Eagles vs Jaguars PDF)

Last Year: 10-6, NFC East Champs, L in Wild Card Round
Next Week: @ Indianapolis Colts (0-1), Monday 8:30pm

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