The odds of the Eagles beating teams through the air go down the more they're forced to do it.
If you thought Eagles coach Doug Pederson had a problem staying committed to the run before losing top back Jordan Howard to a stinger that has forced him to miss the last three games, get a load of what’s happened since then.
Starting with a 17-10 loss to New England on Nov. 17, the Eagles have run 204 plays on offense. Only 55 of them were called runs. Doesn’t matter that those 55 runs produced 236 yards (4.3 average).
It wasn’t enough for Pederson and Wentz, who sometimes calls audibles, to stay more balanced, despite being ahead most of the time in two of the three games and being behind by more than one score for a total of just 13:22 in that span.
Not coincidentally, they have lost them all.
Their failure to stay balanced certainly is not the only thing that has cost them during this three-game skid, just the second of Pederson’s career and first since 2016, but it has been a major factor in the outcomes each week.
As noted in an earlier analysis of the team’s offensive shortcomings, the Eagles through October 27 were 15-2 in games when he attempted 31 or fewer passes and 12-19 in all the others for his career. That disparity has only grown in the four games since. Now he’s still 15-2 when throwing 31 passes or less, but 13-22 in the others.
It would be one thing if the Eagles had no running game, which they struggled with at times last year. But they do now and have all season.
Yet they continue not to rely on it as anything more than a vehicle to try to keep opponents honest against the pass, which they often don’t do anyway because of the quality of the Eagles’ wide receivers.
As far back as last November, the book on the Eagles was to put the ball in Wentz’s hands as much as possible, according to New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton.
The Saints were using slightly different metrics when planning to deliver the worst beating to a defending Super Bowl champion in the history of the sport, but the rationale was the same: Whether it’s Wentz who malfunctions, or his receivers, or his offensive line and/or protection packages, the odds of the Eagles beating teams through the air go down the more they’re forced to do it.
This is exactly what happened again Sunday, when Pederson kept relying on a passing game that’s nowhere near as consistent as the running game to pull them through this funk.
What’s puzzling is that the Eagles are at the forefront of analytics. The data they get has to at least feature details of the dangers of throwing too many times compared to running.
We’re not talking about the kind of old-school analytics former Ohio State coach Woody Hayes used, like “three things can happen when you throw the ball, and two of them are bad.”
We’re talking about results and what the Eagles can do to stop the bleeding. The data keeps smacking Pederson in the face, but he keeps sticking to a program that doesn’t work.
“Well, we had opportunities,” Pederson said Monday. “You know, we had a mishap — we had a dropped pass there in the red zone that would have been possibly another touchdown there. Again, we had the penalty — the false start kind of set us back offensively that prevented us from keeping the lead.”
But that’s getting to be every game now, and with a run-pass ratio of 27% to 73% over the past three games, based on the receivers they have and the problems Wentz has had with his accuracy and getting everyone on the same page, why would he think this approach is ever going to break this losing streak?
What the Eagles can do much better than throw is run, but they keep pushing the passing game as the way out.
It’s more like a path right over a cliff.
They can’t win this way. Not with the personnel they have, though Pederson begs to differ.
“We have guys in position,” he said. “It’s not the calls. It’s not the effort of the team it’s not any of that. We’re in position. They made the plays, we didn’t. And that’s really what it comes down to. ...
“I mean, there are times when you get beat, there’s times when you win, and we got beat. I mean we physically got beat yesterday and we have to accept that. Every player has to look at that and the coaches have to look at that and say, ‘What can I do about this, what can I do this week to get better from that and how can I maybe be another six inches further down the field or, you know, listen to the snap count a little bit or whatever it might be, to make those plays in the future?’”
Better yet, how about not putting them in those positions as often by doing what they do best more often?
Just a suggestion.
Nick writes from Miami Gardens, Fla.