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Birdfeed: Vol. 22.5; Finish Early

The Eagles went to the desert and escaped with a win despite a less than stellar showing. Good teams find ways to win, especially on the road, but what made the Eagles day such a struggle?

First, the Eagles forgot they were the better team. A season ago, the Eagles were outgunned in nearly every contest. They had to scheme advantages wherever possible, take risks and hope for the best. Nick Sirianni’s mindset needs to change as this season continues. He has the better team, the more superior horse power, and should plan/coach accordingly. In Arizona, the Eagles forgot this and looked different than they had all season.

I don’t know if the Eagles saw an obvious weakness on film or saw an overwhelming advantage they could exploit, but the lateral passing and screen game was way over the top Sunday. What’s worse, it was only minimally effective. Before Sunday, the Eagles hadn’t done too much in the lateral passing game this year. Mostly because they don’t need to, as their talent on the outside is better than it’s ever been in Philadelphia. Why bend over backward to change your offense against an inferior opponent? AJ Brown didn’t see the football after the first drive. Jalen Hurts and the offense didn’t take shots downfield after the first quarter. The Eagles have a great offense. They were up 14-0. Why are you changing your stripes?

Winning games and having the mentality of a winning team are two different things. The Eagles are certainly a winning team, and generally speaking, I think they have the mentality of winning team, but they haven’t perfected it yet.

The Eagles let teams hang around. They didn’t finish off Detroit in Week 1, allowed the Vikings and Commanders to hang around in Weeks 2 and 3, and took their foot off the gas in the rain against the Jaguars. In Arizona, the Eagles had the Cardinals on the ropes at 14-0 and backed off. Sure, the opponent isn’t going to give up, and you won’t blow everyone out, but great teams finish early.

The 2017 Eagles had the league’s highest point differential because they buried opponents. Based on point differential, the 2022 Eagles are every bit as dominant. However, anyone who’s watched this season knows the Eagles don’t finish early. For whatever reason, they let up and either jog to the finish or hope for opponent incompetence to seal the victory.

The Eagles have too many winning veterans on this team for this issue to continue as it has. In my opinion, it’s a coaching issue. “Issue” is probably too strong, but hear me out. Sirianni hasn’t won like some of his veteran players. He’s still learning what it takes to win for all 60 minutes. This has become clear at various points throughout the season.

For example, against the Cardinals, after spinning their wheels for most of the second half, the Eagles offense bullied their way to a 17 play, 8 minute drive where they threw the football only three times. Against the Jaguars, the Eagles took control of the game on three consecutive 2nd half drives where they ran the football on 22 of 28 plays.

As I’ve said before, the offensive line is this team’s meal ticket. When in doubt, ride them out. Nothing demoralizes an opponent more than not being able to stop the run when everyone in the building knows the run is coming.

Slowly but surely, I believe Sirianni is figuring this out and the sooner he applies that foot (the run game) to the opponent’s neck, the 2nd half offensive issues will start to dissipate.

*****

Thursday Night Pick; Commanders +0.5 (In the minority here, but I like that Ron Rivera singled out his quarterback.)

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