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Eagles Notes: Doug Pederson’s late game needs work

Gotta win some close games eventually.

Philadelphia Eagles v New York Giants Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

As you all know, the Eagles lost to the Giants yesterday. I jotted a few things down, and then followed up on them. Here are some things I noticed:

1. Setting yourself up for failure

The Eagles converted just three of 15 third downs on Sunday, which is never good. There were plenty of reasons. For one, the team’s average yards to go on third downs? 7.3. Only four of the 15 third downs were closer than five yards, and nine or 15 third downs were at least eight yards.

That’s a lot of yards.

Doug Pederson’s preferred method of approaching first and second downs led to the Eagles finding themselves very far away from the sticks come third down. I saw a good number of fans bemoaning Pederson’s decision to start a number of series with incomplete passes, followed by fruitless runs, and it seemed like that was his formula all afternoon long. So I went to the play-by-play to see if those observations were accurate.

Pederson called for passes on 22 of 31 first downs on Sunday. Seven of those passes resulted in first downs. 15 didn’t. Of those 15, Pederson followed the pass with a run eight times, including a brutal late-game stretch of three straight first down passes yielding 0 yards, followed by a run.

TL;DR: Pederson needs to start varying the way he approaches first and second down to keep his offense in manageable third downs.

2. They ain’t no closers

The Eagles are 4-4. The four games they’ve won have been by a difference of at least 10 points in each case, an average of 19 PPG. The four games they’ve lost have been single-digit gaps, an average of 4.8 PPG. Ergo: halfway through the season, it seems Doug Pederson’s team is not winning close games, which isn’t great.

I went back and looked at the Eagles’ last drive of all four losses this season, each of which were one-score games at the time.

Starting with the Lions game, the Eagles’ first of the season, we have the shortest final drive: one play. Carson Wentz wound up and launched an interception on first down, the final play of the drive. Zero net yards, zero points, and a loss.

The next week, the Eagles lost to Washington by seven points. They had the ball with four minutes left, down seven points. They ran eight plays for a net of 10 yards. Carson Wentz was 2 of 5 passing the ball, and the final play of the drive was a sack on third down. The Eagles punted it away and never got the ball back.

Against Dallas last week, the Eagles lost by six points in overtime. They had the ball with 1:13, with the game tied. The Birds ran four plays for a net of -11 yards. Carson Wentz completed one pass but was sacked twice, including on the final play of the drive before punting it away. The Eagles never got the ball back.

And yesterday, the Eagles had the ball with 1:48 left at the Giants’ 34-yard line. They ran five plays for a net of 17 yards. Carson Wentz completed one of five passes, including an incompletion on the final play of the drive, a fourth down.

So, on those drives: they ran 18 plays, gained a net 16 yards, and Wentz completed 4 of 12 passes.

Not ideal.

3. The Eagles are doomed next week

Leodis McKelvin had a good week against Dez Bryant in Week 8. Leodis McKelvin had a bad week against Odell Beckham Jr. and the Giants in Week 9. Therein lies the problem: the Eagles’ cornerbacks are terribly, terribly inconsistent, which means they can’t be counted on bouncing back against the Falcons. They can’t be counted on to do much of anything, especially against one of the best passing attacks in the league.

The Eagles’ corners managed to hold Matthew Stafford and the Lions to 164 passing yards a few weeks back, but even in that game they allowed Stafford to throw three touchdowns. Their performance against Sam Bradford, while admirable, was largely in thanks to the Vikings having an offensive line sans starter-worthy offensive tackles.

Heading into the season, I thought the combination of Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod would be able to hide the shortcomings of what we already knew was a very subpar set of cornerbacks. But the corner position has proven to be the team’s undoing in a number of games this year, and until they get things figured out, the Eagles are doomed.

4. Hey, look! Bryce Treggs ain’t too bad!

Bryce Treggs seems to be mighty quick. We have to temper our expectations, of course, because the Giants’ defense isn’t great at all. Good wide receivers have been lighting them up all season long. For reference:

Week 1: Cole Beasley: 8/65, long 15
Week 2: Brandin Cooks: 7/68, long 18
Week 3: DeSean Jackson: 5/96/1, long 44
Week 4: Charles Johnson: 2/70, long 40
Week 5: Randall Cobb: 9/108, long 21
Week 6: Mike Wallace: 4/97, long 70
Week 7: Brian Quick: 4/92, long 48

But Treggs caught two passes for 69 yards (nice), looked good and fast doing it, and even could’ve had more if Wentz had found him when he beat his man in the second half but Wentz under threw him.

Also, look at the list of players up there. Treggs hauled in more yards than both Cole Beasley and Brandin Cooks, and one fewer than Charles Johnson. He also caught a longer pass than all of those players but Mike Wallace, who caught a 95-yard touchdown pass on Sunday and is no longer constrained by the realm of reality.

All things considered, Treggs had a really good debut on Sunday. In just one afternoon, he looked better going deep than any other Eagles wide receiver has this season. He’s probably not the next great thing, but there’s no harm at all in giving him more shots as the season continues and seeing what the Eagles really have in the 22-year-old.