Eagles vs. Saints: By the Numbers
The Eagles' suddenly vaunted rushing attack faces its toughest test against the New Orleans Saints.
Sunday’s game between the Eagles and the Saints pits the NFL’s hottest rushing attack against its best run-stopping defense.
The Eagles are third in rushing (144.3 yards per game) and fourth in rush average (5.0 yards per carry). In their last three games — wins over the Lions and Broncos and a three-point loss to the Chargers, they’ve run the ball a whopping 125 times and have averaged 208.7 yards and 14.7 rushing first downs per game.
In their first seven games, the Eagles averaged 116.7 yards and 7.1 rushing first downs per game.
The Eagles have run the ball on 68.3% of their offensive plays in the last three games. In their first seven games, their run percentage was 38.9. They averaged just 23.4 carries in their first seven games, 41.7 in the last three.
Running the ball against New Orleans won’t be as easy as it’s been the last three weeks. The Saints are first in run defense (72.9 yards per game) and first in opponent rush average (3.1). They’ve given up more than 90 rushing yards in a game once this season. That was 131 in a 33-22 Week 5 win over Washington.
The Eagles are first in rushing first downs with 96, including 38 by quarterback Jalen Hurts. They’ve had 44 rushing first downs in the last three games alone. They’re averaging more rushing first downs per game (9.6) this season than any Eagles offense since the NFL started keeping track of first downs back in 1981.
But the Saints are second in rushing first downs allowed (42). Only Buffalo has given up fewer (37).
The Eagles have had 45 runs of 10 or more yards in their first 10 games. Hurts has 20, Miles Sanders has 8, Jordan Howard has 6, Boston Scott has 5, and Kenny Gainwell and Jalen Reagor each have 3. Only Cleveland has more (49). But the Saints have given up a league-low 14 runs of 10-plus yards.
The Eagles are third in first-down rush average (5.0), but the Saints are second in stopping the run on first down (3.2). The Eagles are fourth in second-down rush average (5.2), but the Saints are first in stopping the run on second down (2.9). Something’s got to give.
Hurts is the wild card in the Eagles’ ground game. He’s 11th in the league in rushing with 549 yards and fourth in rush average (5.7) among players with at least 75 carries.
He’s fourth in rushing first downs (38) behind only the Colts’ Jonathan Taylor (54), the Titans’ Derrick Henry (49), and Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (39). His 20 runs of 10-plus yards (on 96 carries) are tied for fourth behind Taylor (24), the Vikings’ Dalvin Cook (23), and the Browns’ Nick Chubb (22).
Last December, in his first NFL start, Hurts rushed for 106 yards on 18 carries in a 24-21 win over the Saints. As a team, the Eagles rushed for 246 yards that day.
In the Saints’ first 10 games this season, opposing quarterbacks have combined for just 95 yards on 27 carries. The Patriots’ Mac Jones rushed for 28 yards on six carries in a 28-13 loss. The Giants’ Daniel Jones had 27 yards on four carries in a 27-21 win. No other quarterback has rushed for more than 12 yards against the Saints.
That almost certainly will change Sunday. Hurts has averaged 58.6 rushing yards per game in his first 14 starts dating back to that Saints game last December. He has rushed for more than 30 yards in all 14 of his starts.
IS THE PASS DEFENSE GETTING BETTER OR ARE THE QUARTERBACKS GETTING WORSE?
- For the second time in the last three games, the Eagles defense didn’t give up a touchdown pass Sunday.
- Teddy Bridgewater’s 61.1 completion percentage was the lowest against the Eagles since Week 5 when the Panthers’ Sam Darnold completed just 56.8 percent of his passes. Saints quarterback Trevor Siemian hasn’t thrown an interception in 104 attempts since replacing Jameis Winston. But he only has completed 57.7% of his passes. In 25 starts with Denver in 2016-17, Siemian had a 59.3 completion percentage, 30 TD passes, and 24 interceptions.
- The Eagles defense’s biggest challenge Sunday, if he plays, will be running back Alvin Kamara. Kamara, who missed last week’s game against the Titans with a knee injury and didn’t practice on Thursday, is one of the league’s best pass-catching backs. He had 80-plus receptions in each of his first four seasons. He has 32 catches and four TDs in eight games this year. Running backs have 63 receptions against the Eagles, which is the third most in the league. But they’ve been able to keep the damage to a minimum, holding RBs to 6.8 yards per catch and one TD.
- Opposing tight ends have been a much bigger problem. They’ve caught 70 passes against the Eagles, including seven of the 16 passing TDs against them. Last week, Broncos tight ends Noah Fant and Albert Okwuegbunam combined for eight catches for 136 yards. In the Eagles’ last five games, tight ends have been targeted 48 times. They had 44 receptions for 487 yards and 4 TDs.
- The Eagles are 26th in sacks with 18. They have just six in their last five games. They had one sack against the Broncos but were able to pressure Bridgewater on a fairly consistent basis. They were credited with 21 quarterback pressures, which was their third most of the season (they had 30 v Carolina and 23 v. Atlanta)
- Fletcher Cox has just one sack. The soon-to-be 31-year-old defensive tackle’s 23 total QB pressures are his fewest through the first 10 games of a season since his rookie year. He’s had one or zero pressures in five of the Eagles’ 10 games.
- Hurts has been sacked just 17 times in 313 pass plays this season. That’s once every 18.4 pass plays. That’s the Eagles’ best sack percentage by a QB since Carson Wentz’s rookie season in 2016 when he was sacked once every 19.4 pass plays.
- Eight of Hurts’ 17 sacks have come on third down. He’s been sacked once every 9.1 pass plays on third down. He’s 31st in third-down completion percentage (52.3) among quarterbacks with at least 40 third-down pass attempts. In his last five starts, he has completed just 9 of 25 third-down attempts. Interestingly, the Eagles still have converted 48.3% of their third-down attempts in those five games, which is the third-best third best third-down success rate in the league over that period. A big reason: Hurts has run for nine first downs on third down in those five games.
- Hurts completed 4 of 5 passes in the red zone against the Broncos, including his 5-yard second-quarter TD to DeVonta Smith. It was his first red-zone touchdown pass since Week 7 when he threw two in a loss to the Raiders. Hurts doesn’t have any red zone interceptions this season and has been sacked just once inside the 20. That was in Week 4 against the Chiefs.
- Hurts was 1-for-6 on 20-plus yard throws against the Broncos, but that one completion was a 36-yard touchdown pass to Smith. He also had another perfectly thrown deep ball go through the hands of Quez Watkins in the end zone. Hurts has a 34.8 completion percentage (16-for-46) on throws that have traveled at least 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. He has three TDs and four of his five interceptions on deep balls. His passing numbers from other distances: 11-19 yards: 58.3 completion rate (35-60), 4 TDs and 0 INTs; 0-10 yards: 70.7% (87-123), 5 TDs, 1 INT; behind LOS: 95.8% (46-48), 1 TD, 0 INT.
- Hurts completed 16 of 23 passes for 178 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT with 11-personnel (1RB, 1TE, 3WR) against the Broncos. His 69.6 completion percentage and 7.7 yards-per-attempt average with 11P in the 30-13 win was much better than in the previous four games, when he completed just 47.9 percent of his passes and averaged 5.0 yards per attempt with 11-personnel.
MORE GOOD STAT STUFF
- The Eagles’ red-zone defense has shown dramatic improvement in the last two games. The Broncos converted just 1 of 5 red-zone opportunities into touchdowns and the Chargers converted only 3 of 6. In the previous 7 games, opponents had converted 20 of 25 red-zone opportunities into TDs (80.0). Bridgewater completed just 2 of 9 passes in the red zone. The week before, the Chargers’ Justin Herbert completed 32 of 38 passes overall (84.2%). But four of his six incompletions were in the red zone.
- The Eagles are 20th in rushing yards allowed (117.4 per game), but seventh in opponent rush average (4.0). The Saints are 12th in rushing (118.9 yards per game), but 22nd in rush average (4.0).
- The Saints have run the ball on 131 of 248 first-down plays (52.8%). They are 21st in first-down rush average (4.1). The Eagles are eighth in rush yards allowed per carry on first down (4.0).
- The Broncos rushed for 96 yards on 18 carries against the Eagles last week. Seven of those 18 carries gained seven yards or more.
- The Eagles scored on their first two possessions against the Broncos. It was just the second time this season they’ve done that. It also happened in their Week 4 loss to the Chiefs.
- For the fourth straight game, the Eagles held their opponent without points on their first possession. Now they just need to expand that stinginess a little further. Opponents have scored on their second possession in four of the last five games.
- The Eagles ran three screens against the Broncos and gained 19 yards on them. In their first 10 games, they’ve run 41 screens and have averaged 6.1 yards per play.
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