Eagles vs. Lions: By the Numbers
Both the Eagles and Lions are struggling. NFL reporter Paul Domowitch explains why in his latest look inside the numbers.
In the past seven seasons, an opposing quarterback managed to complete 80 percent of his passes against the Eagles defense just twice.
Both instances came in 2018. Ryan Fitzpatrick, then on the seventh stop of his nine-team-and-counting tour through the NFL, completed 27 of 33 passes (81.8 percent) for 402 yards and four TDs in a 27-21 Week 2 win over the Eagles. Three weeks later, the Vikings’ Kirk Cousins completed 30 of 37 passes (81.1 percent) for 301 yards and one TD in a 23-21 win over the Eagles.
That was it. Twice in 112 regular-season games over seven years.
It’s been quite a different story this season, however. With new defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon installing a bend-but-hopefully-maybe-don’t-completely-break scheme that has the safeties playing somewhere near Wilmington and the linebackers running around like they’re lost in the woods, the football has been hitting the ground less than falling Cheerios around a beagle.
Through the first seven weeks, the Eagles have the worst opponent completion percentage in the league (74.4). On Sunday, the Raiders’ Derek Carr became the fourth quarterback in seven games to complete 80 percent of his passes against the Eagles, and the first since 2012 to complete 90 percent. He had just three incompletions in 34 attempts (91.2) in the Raiders’ 33-22 win.
The other three quarterbacks who have completed 80 percent of their passes against the Eagles this season: the Bucs’ Tom Brady (34-42, 80.9%), the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes (24-30, 80.0), and the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott (21-26, 80.8).
Tight End Trouble
Five of the 14 touchdown passes the Eagles have given up have been to tight ends, including one in each of the last three games.
The Eagles seemingly caught a break Sunday when Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller, who had 107 receptions and nine TDs last year, sat out the game with an ankle injury.
But their No. 2 tight end, Foster Moreau picked up the slack, catching six passes for 60 yards and an 18-yard TD.
The week before, the Eagles played the Gronk-less Bucs. But their other two tight ends, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, combined for nine catches, 75 yards, and a TD (by Howard). The week before that, Carolina Panthers rookie tight end Tommy Tremble had a TD catch in the Eagles’ come-from-behind 21-18 win.
In their Week 3 loss to the Cowboys, Dalton Schultz had six catches for 80 yards and two touchdowns against the Eagles.
Tight ends have 41 catches for 352 yards and five TDs against the Eagles in the first seven games. They have a 75.9 catch rate and are averaging 8.6 yards per attempt.
Ironically, the Eagles did a good job against arguably the two best tight ends in the league – the Chiefs’ Jason Kelce and the 49ers’ George Kittle. Kelce had four catches for just 23 yards in the Chiefs’ Week 4 win. Kittle had four catches for 17 yards in the Niners’ Week 2 win. The extra resources the Eagles had to use to shut down Kelce came with a price, however. It freed up wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who had 11 catches for 186 yards and three TDs.
This week, they’ll be facing another good pass-catching tight end in the Lions’ T.J. Hockenson. His 38 receptions are the second-most by a tight end, behind only Kelce (45). Hockenson has been targeted 20 times the last two games with 14 catches for 122 yards.
Here’s a look at how the Eagles defense did against opposing tight ends the previous five years under Jim Schwartz:
Targets Rec. Yds. TDs
2020 106 76 806 9
2019 103 68 687 4
2018 93 61 667 2
2017 111 73 745 5
2016 72 43 406 4
Second (Down) Chances
The Eagles defense has held opponents to 5.4 yards per play on second down this season, which is the seventh-best average in the league. But in their last two losses to the Bucs and Raiders, they’ve struggled mightily on second down, particularly against the pass.
The Eagles allowed 9.0 yards per play on second down in the last two weeks. Three hundred fifty-three of the Bucs and Raiders’ combined 841 total yards, or 42 percent, came on second down. Carr and Brady were a combined 32-for-33 for 293 yards and two touchdowns on second down. Carr completed all 14 of his second-down attempts. He also was 13-for-14 on first down. By comparison, the Eagles’ Jalen Hurts was 6-for-13 for 87 yards on first down and 8-for-13 for 98 yards on second down.
The Raiders had 23 first downs Sunday. Fourteen of them came on second down. Another five came on first down.
Partly because they were playing from behind the entire game – again – but mostly because it’s the way Nick Sirianni wants to take the offense now that Zach Ertz is gone and he’s got three young wide receivers he wants to highlight, the Eagles used 11-personnel on 58 of 68 offensive plays against the Raiders (85.3 percent). That’s the highest usage of 11P this season.
A breakdown of their 11-personnel usage in the first seven games:
Total 11P Run Pass 11P
Opp. Plays Plays Plays Plays Pct.
ATL 67 36 14 22 58.2
SF 55 41 20 21 74.5
DAL 53 45 11 34 84.9
KC 70 47 15 32 67.1
CAR 61 45 10 35 73.8
TB 47 37 15 22 78.7
LVR 68 58 24 34 85.3
Tot. 421 309 109 200 73.4
Jalen Hurts has completed just 24 of 52 passes (46.1 percent) the last two games with 11P. He rushed for 86 yards on 17 carries with 11P against the Bucs and Raiders. Overall, 51 of his 66 rushing attempts and 333 of his 361 rushing yards this season have been with 11P.
More Stat Stuff
Gannon has been determined not to give up the big play this season, and he has succeeded with respect to that. The Eagles have allowed just 32 run and pass plays of 16 yards or more, which is the fourth-fewest in the league through the first seven weeks. But they’ve given up 54 plays that have gained between 10 and 15 yards, which is the ninth most. The Eagles have given up 23 touchdowns in the first seven games. Thirteen of those TD drives have been 70 yards or more. Fourteen have been eight plays or more. The defense spent all summer working on stripping and punching the ball away from the ball carrier. But they’ve had enough problems just tackling people let alone forcing fumbles. They’ve forced just one fumble and are tied for 18th in takeaways with seven.
With respect to their tackling issues, the Eagles have given up 544 yards to their opponent’s leading rusher in the first seven games. Three hundred fifty-three of those yards, or 64.9%, have come after contact, according to Pro Football Focus. In the last three games, however, that percentage has jumped to 72. A game-by-game breakdown:
Player Rush Yds. After Contact
Patterson (ATL) 54 30
Mitchell (SF) 42 34
Elliott (DAL) 95 58
Hubbard (CAR) 101 77
Fournette (TB) 81 62
Drake (LVR) 69 42
Hurts is second to the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson in rushing yards by quarterbacks. Jackson has 480. Hurts’ 25 rushing first downs also are second to Jackson, who has 29.
Hurts was two-for-six on throws of 20 yards or more against the Raiders. For the season, he’s 13-for-34 (38.2%) with one TD and three interceptions from that distance. Carson Wentz’s numbers on 20-plus-yard throws the last three years: 2020 (35.2 percent, 5-5), 2019 (37.7, 5-4), 2018 (36.9, 3-4).
The Eagles attempted just one screen against the Raiders. It was to Miles Sanders and lost three yards. In their last three games, the Eagles have run nine screens and gained minus-three yards.
The Eagles are 26th in third-down defense (44.8 percent). They have the fourth-worst stop rate in the league on third downs of 1-4 yards, allowing first downs 70.6 percent of the time (24-34). They’re 13th on third downs of eight yards or more (6-31, 19.4%).
Hurts has thrown nine red-zone TD passes. Dallas Goedert, Greg Ward and Zach Ertz each have two. DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor and Kenny Gainwell all have one.
Paul Domowitch has covered pro football for five decades and has been a Hall of Fame selector since 2001. You can reach Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @pdomo.
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