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Paul Domowitch: No Super Bowl return for the Eagles unless offense gets better in the red zone


OCR Logo Color 300DPI 1The Eagles are 5-0 despite the fact that their offense currently owns the sixth-worst red-zone percentage in the NFL (42.1).

They have made Jake Elliott the busiest field goal kicker in the league by converting just eight of their 19 trips inside the 20 into touchdowns. So far, it hasn’t impacted their ability to win games. But history suggests they aren’t likely to make it back to the Super Bowl unless the offense gets much better at scoring touchdowns in the red zone rather than settling for an Elliott three-pointer.

Of the last 10 Super Bowl champs, just one – the 2015 Denver Broncos – had a red-zone success rate lower than 53.0 percent (46.1). Seven of the last 10 Super Bowl winners had red-zone percentages above 60.

Not one of the last 10 Super Bowl runners-up had a red-zone percentage lower than 51. Five were above 60 percent.

Last year, the Eagles team that lost to the Chiefs in the Super Bowl had the league’s third-best red-zone rate at 68.0 percent. When they won the title in 2017, they were second (64.1%). The 2004 Eagles team that lost to the Patriots in the Super Bowl, was fourth in red-zone percentage (62.3%).

The Eagles are third in the league in run-play percentage (49.9%), behind only Baltimore (50.9) and San Francisco (54.4). They are second in run-play percentage in the red zone, running the ball 64.1 percent of the time. Forty-one of their 64 red-zone plays in the first five games have been runs.

Their red-zone run-play percentage is similar to last year when they ran the ball 66.7 percent of the time in there. The difference this year is opposing defenses are doubling down on the run in the red zone and challenging Jalen Hurts and the Eagles to beat them with the pass, and the Eagles have been inconsistent throwing the ball down near the goal line.

The Eagles have averaged just 2.39 yards per carry in the red zone this season, compared to 3.03 last year. Hurts averaged 2.77 yards per carry in the red zone last year (44-122, 11 TDs) and finished eighth in the league in red-zone rushing yards (122) and tied for third in red-zone rushing touchdowns (11). So far this year, he is averaging just 1.47 (15-22-4 TDs) yards per carry in the red zone.

Through five games, Hurts is 30th in red-zone completion percentage (44.4%, 8-for-18), 34th in red-zone passing yards (24), tied for 28th in red-zone touchdown passes (2), and 34th in red-zone yards per attempt (1.3).


–The Eagles used the Tush Push a season-high six times against the Rams, converting four of them, including one for a touchdown. The only two they didn’t convert were late in the game when they used it on a third-and-3 and fourth-and-2 to essentially kill clock.

They’ve converted 14 of 15 Tush Push/sneaks in and-1 situations this season, including all four against the Rams, three of three against Washington, four of five against Tampa Bay, and three of three against Minnesota.

All four of Jalen Hurts’ rushing touchdowns have come on sneaks, two against the Vikings, one against the Bucs, and one against the Rams.

The Tush Push broken down by down-and-distance: 7-for-8 on third-and-1, 4-for-4 on fourth-and-1, 2-for-2 on second-and-one, 1-for-1 on first-and-1, 0-for-1 on third-and-3 and 0-for-1 on third-and-2.

Hurts has gained multiple yards on eight of his 14 and-1 sneaks.


Sean Desai was educated at the Vic Fangio School of Defense, where rushing four and dropping seven is the preferred method of getting after the opposing quarterback. But the last two weeks against Washington and LA, the Eagles defensive coordinator has changed things up. After sending extra rushers on just 19.4 percent of dropbacks in the first three games, the Eagles’ blitz percentage in the last two games has been 29.9 percent.

Desai sent five or more rushers on 14 of 46 pass plays (30.4%) against Washington’s young quarterback, Sam Howell. The Rams’ Matthew Stafford isn’t young, but Desai went after him as well, blitzing on 12 of 41 pass plays (29.3%) Sunday.

Stafford completed just five of 12 passes for 44 yards when the Eagles blitzed him. Howell was 6-for-11 for 46 yards v. five- and six-man rushes (Eagles have yet to send seven rushers after the QB this season.

In the first three games, opposing quarterbacks completed 17 of 23 passes, but averaged only 6.5 yards per attempt when the Eagles blitzed.

Three of the Eagles’ five sacks of Howell came via the blitz. All four sacks of Stafford were with a four-man rush. Ten of the Eagles’ 15 sacks in the first five games have been with a four-man rush.

Are the last two games an indication that Desai plans to blitz more? It will depend on the opponent and the quarterback. “it’s by week and by play,’’ he said.

“We keep evolving as a defense,’’ he said. “We keep growing and the teams that we’re playing are different. We’ve got to be able to adapt and adjust to the teams we’re playing and what we think gives us the best chance each week.’’

Sunday was a tale of two halves for Desai’s defense. Stafford sliced and diced the Eagles in the first 30 minutes, completing 12 of 17 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns. Cooper Kupp was unstoppable against the Eagles’ rotating slot options, Mario Goodrich and rookie Eli Ricks, catching six passes for 95 yards. Rookie Puka Nucua had three catches for 35 yards and a TD.

In the second half, totally different story. Stafford completed just 9 of 20 passes for 75 yards and was sacked three times. Kupp had just two catches for 23 yards. The Rams, who scored touchdowns on two of their three first-half possessions, were shut out in the second half. Never made it beyond the Eagles 45-yard line on five second-half possessions.

The Eagles blitzed on six of 18 pass plays in the first half and six of 23 in the second half. But they got more consistent pressure on Stafford in the second half. He completed just one of six passes against the blitz in the second half.

A big reason for the Eagles’ improved pass defense in the second half was the insertion of veteran slot corner Bradley Roby, who had been signed to the team’s practice squad just a week earlier. Roby played 25 snaps Sunday, all of them in the second half.


–D’Andre Swift is in the last year of his rookie contract and it remains to be seen whether the Eagles will have any interest in signing him to a second NFL deal. But if they want him to be healthy for the playoffs THIS season, they need to keep a close eye on his touches.

Swift has 76 carries and 15 receptions in the first five games. That’s 91 touches or 18.2 per game. That’s uncharted territory for the 24-year-old running back. In his three seasons with the Lions, he averaged 10.5 (2022), 16.4 (2021) and 12.3 (2020) touches per game and missed 11 games in those three years.

Even at the University of Georgia, he never was a workhorse, averaging 15.7 (2019), 13.9 (2018) and 6.5 (2017) touches per game.

Swift currently is fourth in the league in rushing (434 yards), behind the Colts’ Zach Moss, the Dolphins’ De’Von Achane (who was placed on IR with a knee injury this week), and league leader Christian McCaffrey of the 49ers (510 yards).

But a rushing title pales in comparison to a Lombardi Trophy. And the Eagles’ chances of winning a Super Bowl will be much better if Swift is healthy and productive in January and February.


–The Eagles are second in the league in average time of possession (34:54). The Browns are first at 34:59. The Eagles’ TOP average is their highest since at least 1989 when the team started tracking the number.

–The Eagles’ 179 rush attempts are the most in the league. The 49ers are second with 173, the Lions are third with 165 and the Ravens are fourth with 164.


–Last year, Eagles running backs weren’t a very big part of the passing game. They caught just 48 passes, which accounted for only 13.7 percent of the team’s total receptions. This year, with Brian Johnson replacing Shane Steichen as offensive coordinator, things have changed a bit. Running backs already have 25 catches, including 10 by Swift in the last two weeks. That’s 22.1 percent of the team’s receptions in the first five games.

–Remember this date: November 22, 2020. A 22-17 loss to the Browns in Cleveland. Why is a five-point loss in a disastrous 4-11-1 season that got Doug Pederson fired significant? Because it’s the last time Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson gave up a quarterback sack. Since then, 37 starts, including four in the postseason (three with a torn groin) and not one sack allowed. Amazing!

–This is just the fourth time in franchise history that the Eagles have started 5-0. The other three years: 1981, 2004, 2022. They made it to the Super Bowl in two of those three years.

–Nick Sirianni is only the eighth head coach since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 to guide his team to back-to-back 5-0 starts. The other seven are Andy Reid, Tony Dungy, Mike Martz, Mike Shanahan, Mike Ditka, Tom Landry and Bud Grant. Six of those seven are either in the Hall of Fame or will be eventually.

–Dallas Goedert averaged 14.6 yards per catch and 7.0 yards after the catch Sunday against the Rams. In the Eagles’ first four games, he had averaged 6.8 and 2.2. His six-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter was his first of the season. It was just his seventh red-zone touchdown catch in the last four seasons. Goedert had seven red-zone scores in just his first two NFL seasons (2018-19)

–The Eagles’ offensive line turned in an impressive performance against the Rams Sunday. Jalen Hurts was sacked just once, and that was a coverage sack that came 6.14 seconds after the snap. Hurts was pressured just five times on 39 dropbacks.

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