Philadelphia Eagles Smarter, Still Far From Head Of the Class
By Michael Quinn
Cold, Hard Football Facts Scoreability Champ (@pjbleedsgreen)
The Dumbest Team in Football in 2012 has made great strides forward through two weeks of the new NFL season.
However, many of the same old problems that plagued lame duck Andy Reid's Philadelphia Eagles in 2012 reared their ugly faces again under Chip Kelly, most notably in the team's shocking 33-30 home loss Sunday to the San Diego Chargers.
After a stunning start to the 2013 season, an explosive 33-27 win over the Washington Redskins, most analysts expected Kelly and his Eagles to follow up their week one staging with big plays and high scores against San Diego.
Well, Philadelphia certainly produced plenty of electrifying moments at the expense of the Chargers.
Michael Vick threw for a career-high 422 yards, 3 touchdowns and didn't commit a single turnover. DeSean Jackson had 193 yards while LeSean McCoy totaled 167 yards of his own.
In fact, the Eagles lead the NFL with 1,184 Total Team Yards through two games, just ahead of the second-ranked Broncos (1,173 Total Team Yards).
The Eagles enter Week 3 boasting both the NFL's leading receiver (Jackson, 297 yards) and leading rusher (McCoy, 237 yards).
Yet the Eagles still lost to Philip Rivers and the Chargers in a heartbreaker.
So if the offense played so well, what happened?
It's a simple, and familiar answer. The Eagles defense, like last year, shot themselves in the foot repeatedly.
The Eagles through two games are No. 30 in total defense and No. 30 in Total Team Yards Allowed (1,170). They're producing big plays on offense, but still giving up plenty on defense and elsewhere.
Sunday's breakdowns on both sides of the ball
That defensive effort, or lack thereof, was evident against the Chargers:
Safety Nate Allen was under the microscope the whole game after he committed a facemask penalty early on and gave up two touchdowns.
Free Agent acquisition Cary Williams, who performend shut down coverage week one, committed three pass interference penalties against the Chargers and gave up a touchdown as well.
With all the bad on defense, there seemed to be some good. Defensive-end-turned-OLB Trent Cole notched his second forced fumble of the year.
Brandon Boykin also got his second turnover in two weeks, in the form of a forced fumble against Antonio Gates (his first fumble since 2008). Unfortunately, the Eagles scored zero points off those turnovers, which is stupid football at it's finest.
Yes, the offense may have put up some monumental numbers, but they also made a few dumb plays at the absolute worst times.
--After Trent Cole forced the fumble late in the second quarter, Alex Henery missed a 48-yard field goal that would have tied the game.
--Down 20-10, Michael Vick found DeSean Jackson for a beautiful touchdown that was ultimately called back due to an illegal formation by rookie Lane Johnson.
--Later in the fourth-quarter, the Eagles caused a fumble on a Chargers kick return, but were unable to recover it. In fact, after they bobbled the ball around, they added on 25-30 yards from the spot where it was fumbled.
That's just too many points and opportunity left on the field.
Eagles are smarter, but far from the head of the class
As a result of those mistakes, the Eagles are not quite living up to their potential through two games under Chip Kelly.
This was the same problem that afflicted the Eagles last year when Cold, Hard Footballl Facts labeled them the Dumbest Team in Football.
The Eagles are second in the NFL right now with 954 yards of total offense, behind only the Packers (965). The Broncos are third in total offense with 926 yards.
But Denver has been far more efficient, turning less offense into a total of 90 points, far ahead of the Eagles (63 points). The Broncos defense has been much better at putting its offense in a position to score; the Eagles defense, as outlined above, did not cooperate well with the offense on Sunday.
As a result, the explosive big-play Eagles are a mere No. 14 in Scoreability at 15.14 Yards Per Point Scored. It's well ahead of last year, when they Eagles finished the season 31st with a dismal 20.23 Yards Per Point Scored.
Philadelphia has improved quite a bit in terms of defensive efficiency, too, despite the Sunday blunders.
Remember, last year the dumbest team in football ranked dead last in Bendability (12.32 Yards Per Point Allowed). Put another way, no team made it easier for opponents to score points.
This year the Eagles are No. 19 in Bendability, with 15.35 Yards Per Point Allowed. It's better than last year. Still not great. Still far from the efficiency typical of championship-caliber terms.
But it's certainly a leap in the right direction. But there's plenty of room for improvement.
Philadelphia vs. the NFC East
The good news is that the Eagles don't have to be very smart to outwit the NFC East.
Here's how the Eagles stack up against their divisional foes in each measure of efficiency, with their league-wide rank on the left.
NFC East 2013 Scoreability (the lower the number the more efficient the offense)
3. Dallas - 12.48 Yards Per Point Scored
14. Philadelphia - 15.13 Yards Per Point Scored
16. N.Y. Giants - 15.81 Yards Per Point Scored
22. Washington - 17.11 Yards Per Point Scored
NFC East 2013 Bendability (the higher the number the more efficient the defense)
13. Dallas - 16.48 Yards Per Point Allowed
19. Philadelphia - 15.35 Yards Per Point Allowed
20. Washington - 14.41 Yards Per Point Alllowed
32. N.Y. Giants - 9.7 Yards Per Point Allowed
The way we measured team "intelligence" last year, and the way we still do with our Intelligence Index at CHFF Insider, is to subtract a team's Scoreability from its Bendability. The greater the difference, the more intelligent the team, the better it plays in situational football, and the fewer mistakes it commits.
Here's how the Eagles stack up right now againt the rest of the NFC West, again with league-rank on the left. Remember, the Eagles were 31st on our Intelligence Index last year, ahead of only the dismal Chiefs.
6. Dallas - +4.0
16. Philadelphia - +0.21
24. Washington - -2.7
28. N.Y. Giants - -6.1
Thanks to the brains of the new head coach, the Eagles have quickly become a much smarter, more efficient team.
Through two games, they're far from the Dumbest Team in Football. But they have plenty of room to improve.
They'll get a great test Thursday night: the 2-0 Kansas City Chiefs current top the CHFF Intelligence Index, the smartest team in football at finishing 32nd and dead last in 2012.
Ironically, former Eagles coach Reid has led that effort.
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