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Eagles are dominating the turnover battle so far


Photo Credit by Philadelphia Eagles

Stateside Front Logo Simple 1200x1200The Eagles have dominated the turnover wars in their first six games.

They went into the bye week with a plus-12 turnover differential, which is not only the best in the league but the best by a wide margin. The Vikings and Ravens are tied for second at plus-4. No team has had a turnover differential this high through six games since the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs, who also were at plus-12 after six games.

(A cautionary tale: the Chiefs lost in the wildcard round of the playoffs to the Colts that year.)

The defense’s 14 takeaways are the most in the league. Their nine interceptions are second only to Buffalo’s 10.

Offensively, their ball security has been impeccable. They have a league-low two giveaways and are the only team in the league without a lost fumble.

They’ve had at least one takeaway in every game, and at least one interception in five of their six games. They’ve had three or more takeaways in three games and have won the turnover battle in all six of their games.

Coaches like to say that if you win the turnover battle, you’ll usually win the game. They like to say that because, well, for the most part, it’s true.

Last season, the Eagles had a zero turnover differential. Sixteen takeaways and 16 giveaways. They won the turnover battle in seven of their 17 games. Won six of them.

The last time the Eagles finished a season with a positive turnover differential was 2017 when they won the Super Bowl. Had a plus-11 turnover differential that year, the fourth-best in the league. Since then: minus-6 (25th) in 2018, minus-3 (22nd) in 2019, minus-10 (29th) in 2020 and 0 (18th) last year.

Just one of the last 10 Super Bowl winners had a negative turnover differential. That was Denver (minus-4, 20th) in 2015. Eight of the other nine SB winners during that period had turnover differentials of plus-8 or better

Quarterback Jalen Hurts has just two interceptions in 184 pass attempts – one against the Vikings in Week 2 and another against Jacksonville in the pouring rain in Week 4. And Nick Sirianni blames himself for the first,  a ball that went off the hands of Kenny Gainwell in traffic.

“Jalen (officially) has two picks, but if the coaches could get a pick, I would get that [Minnesota] pick,” the coach said. “That was on me. I didn’t feel great about the play or the timing of the play, and I put the ball at risk on that one.’’

Hurts is averaging an interception every 92 pass attempts this season. Last year, he averaged one every 48. He also hasn’t lost a fumble, despite averaging 12.8 carries a game in addition to 199 total dropbacks.

“Jalen has done a great job of knowing where to go with the football in the passing game and not putting the ball at risk,’’ Sirianni said.

Then there’s running back Miles Sanders. Sanders hasn’t been a big fumbler in his career. But he did have seven in 34 games in his first three years, losing four of them. This year, he’s averaging a career-high 17.5 rushing attempts per game and hasn’t put the ball on the ground once.

“When the guys that are touching the ball the most are most fundamentally sound and taking care of it the best, then everybody else is going to fall into line,’’ Sirianni said.

Last year, in Sirianni’s first season as head coach and Jonathan Gannon’s first season as his defensive coordinator, the Eagles finished 27th in takeaways with just 16. That was the fewest by an Eagles defense since Andy Reid’s final season in 2012, when they had only 13.

Their league-leading 14 takeaways through six games has them on a 40-takeaway pace. The last time the Eagles had 40 or more takeaways in a season was in 1999, the first year of Reid and his defensive lieutenant Jim Johnson. They had an NFL-high 46 takeaways that year, including 28 interceptions.

The most takeaways by an Eagles team since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1976 was 56 in 1989, which was Buddy Ryan’s next to last season as head coach.

Second-quarter phenomenon

–The Eagles have outscored opponents 112-27 in the second quarter. The 112 points and plus-85 scoring margin both are NFL highs. Last year, they scored 104 points in the second quarter the entire season.

While the 112 second-quarter points is great, what isn’t is that they’ve scored just 49 points in the other three quarters, including only 35 points in the second half. That’s the third-fewest in the league.

Jalen Hurts has a 123.2 passer rating in the second quarter. His passer rating in the other three quarters, however, doesn’t get out the 80s – 83.1 in the first quarter, 84.8 in the third quarter, and 87.5 in the fourth quarter.

He’s averaging 9.7 yards per attempt in the second quarter, compared to 7.9 in the first, 7.3 in the third, and 6.8 in the fourth. Five of his six touchdown passes have been thrown in the second quarter.

Perhaps a better way to look at the Eagles’ scoring this season is to break it down by possessions. In their first six games, their third, fourth, and fifth possessions have been far and away their most productive.

They’ve averaged 5.0 yards per play with two touchdowns on their first possession and 4.8 yards with two touchdowns on their second possession.

On their third possession, they’re averaging 7.3 yards per play with three touchdowns and a field goal. On their fourth, 5.0 yards with three TDs and a field goal. On their fifth, 8.0 with two TDs and two field goals.

Breaking down the run

–The Eagles are averaging a league-high 37.5 rushing attempts per game and are third in run-play percentage (53.1), behind only the Bears (58.8) and the Falcons (57.2).

–They’re fifth in rushing yards per game (156.0) but 23rd in rush average (4.2 yards per carry).

–Last year, the Eagles finished second to Tennessee in rushing attempts (32.3 per game), but led the league in run-play percentage (48.8). In their final 10 games, however, the Eagles averaged 38.6 rushing attempts per game and had a 59.0 run-play percentage.

–Miles Sanders is fourth in the league in rushing with 485 yards. He’s averaging a career-high 17.5 carries per game. Sanders has had 15 or more rushing attempts in five of the Eagles’ six games this season (he had 13 v. Lions in Week 1). In his first three seasons, he had 15-plus carries in just 14 of 40 games.

–Sanders and Jalen Hurts are tied for third in the league in rushing first downs with 25. The Browns’ Nick Chubb is first with 29 and the Raiders’ Josh Jacobs is second with 26.

–Fifty-one of the Eagles’ 225 rushing attempts have gained zero or negative yards. That’s the second-highest total in the league, behind only Jacksonville (54). Individually, Sanders has the third most run plays of zero or minus yards (21). Only the Jags’ James Robinson and the Bengals’ Joe Mixon have more.

–The Eagles also are tied for fifth in runs of 10 yards or more. They have 25. Sanders has 11 of them.

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