The Eagles defense was a weak point entering the season and through the first three games, they have largely underwhelmed. What has made them so frustrating recently is their play improved against the Kansas City Chiefs but they just couldn't close the deal and get off the field.
In the fourth quarter in last Thursday's 26-16 loss, the Eagles had forced Alex Smith and the Chiefs into a third-and-10 situation from their own five yard line. Smith found wide receiver Donnie Avery for fifteen yards and a Kansas City first down. They got a new set of downs and away from the shadow of their own end zone. The Chiefs drive went from a quick three-and-out to an 8:15 minute drive that ate the clock and ended with them stretching their lead to 10 points.
This was not an isolated incident. Earlier in the game the Eagles had forced the Chiefs into a third-and-19 when Smith hit Avery on a short pass which he took 26 yards for a first down. There are plenty of more examples. Week 2 against the Chargers, the Eagles forced a third-and-10 with the Chargers just outside the redzone on the Philadelphia 24 yard line. San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers found Eddie Royal on a 24-yard touchdown pass.
It's plagued the Eagles all year.
The Eagles have forced 26 third-and-six or longer situations this season and have allowed eight first downs (30.8%). That isn't good but it does not seem quite so bad though considering the NFL average is 29.3%, right? Well the Eagles defense went eight-for-eight shutting down the Redskins on third-and-six or longer in Week 1 so over the last two games, the Eagles are 8-for-18 (44.4%) on allowing teams to get a first down. That would put them tied for 29th in the NFL with Indianapolis with only Chicago (45.5%) and Denver (52.3%) trailing them. However, the Eagles 26 situations are more than Indy's (18), Chicago's (22), and Denver's (23).
On third-and-six or longer, Rivers was 8-for-8 for 98 yards and a touchdown against Philadelphia while Smith was 3-for-6 (50%) for 56 yards. Royal caught three passes for 57 yards and a touchdown on third-and-six or longer while Avery was right behind him with three catches for 56 yards. The craziest thing is that seven of the eight conversions the Eagles have allowed on third-and-six or longer went for 15 yards or more.
When breaking down the Eagles defense, they have struggled in some areas but they've excelled in others. If they want to close out games and really start to steal some wins for the Eagles offense, they have to get off the field when they hold the advantage. Third-and-long should be a defensive advantage every time.
The "prevent" defense the Eagles are using on third-and-long hasn't worked. Get it out of there. Stay aggressive because whatever they are doing on first and second down seems to be working. Don't fix it if it isn't broken. Third down defense is broken - that needs to be fixed.
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