All-22: Eagles Failing To Capitalize On Turnovers
After the Atlanta game, amid all of the ups and down the Eagles have encountered in this rollercoaster ride of a season, there has been one constant: the defense has put them in a position to win games.
According to Football Outsiders, the Eagles rank first in the NFL in turnovers forced per drive, at 21.8 percent. That was evident against the Panthers, as they intercepted Cam Newton three times, even though he only threw four picks in the previous five games.
“Our defense did a good job of creating turnovers for us but we have to turn those in to seven [points] and not three,” Chip Kelly said. “We talk about response after turnovers and we end of up kicking two field goals.”
Although the Eagles’ defense kept setting up their offense for success — Philadelphia started one drive on Carolina’s 39-yard line and another inside the red zone — the offense scored just six points off three turnovers. On those two drives, the Eagles managed just three first downs and settled for field goals both times.
However, that shouldn’t be surprising. According to Football Outsiders, the Eagles rank 25th in offensive points per drive and 29th in offensive yards per drive.
“We are close, but when you’re playing a really good football team like Carolina, close isn’t good enough,” Kelly said. “You have to stop getting in your own way and stop stopping yourselves.”
Nolan Carroll bailed out Jordan Matthews. After Sam Bradford’s first interception went through Matthews’ hands — though the ball was behind the receiver — Carroll took the ball from Ted Ginn before Ginn could complete the catch.
After Carroll’s red zone interception, the Eagles had their third-longest series of the game as they advanced the ball 45 yards. However, once they crossed into plus-territory, the drive stalled.
On 1st-and-10 from Carolina’s 43-yard line, Kelly called a sweep for Ryan Mathews. Luke Kuechly and Roman Harper (the players circled above), however, combined to tackle Mathews for a gain of just one yard.
Kuechly quickly diagnosed the play, so it’s unreasonable to expect Lane Johnson cut off the linebacker. However, because Johnson couldn’t reach Kuechly, Jason Kelce had to hone in on him. Ideally, you want to get a hat on a hat on the play side — which the Eagles have the numbers for — and have Kelce pull around to block Harper.
But they couldn’t win every one-on-one battle, so Kelce instead turned his attention to Kuechly. The center also missed his block on the linebacker, giving Mathews nowhere to run.
On second down, Bradford was sacked for a loss of seven yards, which effectively ended the drive. All five of his receivers were blanketed, so as he climbed the pocket, he had no one to throw the ball to.
An incompletion would’ve made third down more doable, but there was a miscommunication between Kelce and Matt Tobin. After they started the play by blocking Kawann Short, both left the mate block, freeing up Short to sack Bradford.
On 3rd-and-16, the Panthers did what you’d expect and dropped their secondary back to take away the deep ball. Because of that, Carolina had five defenders behind the Eagles’ deepest receiver, who was still four yards from the first down.
Bradford decided to dump the ball off to DeMarco Murray, who wasn’t expecting the pass so soon out of his break. The ball hit the ground and the Eagles’ first drive after a takeaway ended.
With the first half winding down and the Eagles poised to enter the break down 14-3, Malcolm Jenkins made a diving catch to intercept Newton at Carolina’s 39-yard line. With 1:01 left in the second quarter and two timeouts, the Eagles had plenty of time to score a touchdown.
They quickly picked up 13 yards on a defensive pass interference call, and then gained 12 more yards on a Zach Ertz reception. With 28 seconds remaining and one timeout, the Eagles faced 1st-and-10 from Carolina’s 11-yard line.
But then, Darren Sproles dropped an easy catch. He likely would’ve picked up about four yards — giving the Eagles the ball close to the 5-yard line — and could’ve made the linebacker miss in open space.
However, he didn’t, and Bradford threw two incompletions before Caleb Sturgis made his second field goal of the game. The second down play was Matthews’ near-catch in the back of the end zone when he was unable to get his second foot down, and third down was when Josh Norman broke up Bradford’s pass intended for Ertz in the end zone.
After watching the film, it appears Miles Austin may have been a better target than Matthews (circled) on an in route, though Matthews was probably earlier in Bradford’s progression and he was in the end zone, while Austin was not.
THE MISSED TOUCHDOWN
Despite their earlier missed opportunities, the drive the Eagles want back most is probably their series after Byron Maxwell’s interception. The cornerback’s diving catch gave Philadelphia the ball just 18 yards from the end zone, when they were down by eight points in the middle of the third quarter.
After converting a third down on a 5-yard Brent Celek reception, the Eagles faced 1st-and-goal from Carolina’s 7-yard line. Kelly called an inside zone for Murray, but the offensive line lost at the point of attack as Kelce was pushed back a couple of yards and Tobin couldn’t reach around to cut off the defensive tackle after Allen Barbre left the mate block.
Because of that, the two defensive tackles — Short and Star Lotulelei — stopped Murray for no gain.
On second down, the Eagles ran an outside zone to the left. However, Barbre failed to cut off Kuechly, who tackled Murray for a one-yard gain.
Facing 3rd-and-goal from the 6-yard line, Josh Huff dropped a potential touchdown. However, Ertz may have been an easier option to score on that play. Regardless, Huff dropped the ball, and the Eagles settled for Sturgis’ third field goal of the game, and never got within 30 yards of the end zone again.
After Sturgis cut the Eagles’ deficit to five points, the Panthers picked up three first downs. But then they had to punt, giving Philadelphia the ball at their own 10-yard line with 1:30 left in the third quarter.
The Eagles responded with their second-longest drive of the game by moving the ball 58 yards, but settled for a 50-yard field goal attempt that Sturgis missed. The play before that, Kelly called a screen to Huff on 3rd-and-9 from the 31-yard line that was immediately criticized.
They lost a yard, and Jon Dorenbos rushed the snap before the holder and kicker were ready for it.
“We thought it was a good call,” Bradford said after the game. “I imagine coaches thought they were probably going to eat us up, and we’d kick it out there and get the ball on the perimeter quickly but they made a good play. Those linebackers were all over it today.”
Even after making one guy miss, Huff wasn’t able to get back to the line of scrimmage. If the Eagles didn’t pick up the first down but still gained several yards, it’s possible Kelly would’ve gone for it.
“We missed the block at the point of attack,” Kelly said. “We knew they were going to be in man coverage. If we could get the first guy blocked, then we bring in a couple of guys to block the guys that are covering Josh.”