In the first two weeks of the season, the Eagles put together two late comebacks that helped them start the season 2-0. In Week 5, they nearly gave one of those comebacks back to the opposition.
The St. Louis Rams played a tough game against the Eagles on Sunday, taking everything that was given to them and giving some of it back in return. If not for some of the strong plays by the Eagles defense and special teams, perhaps the Eagles aren’t sitting in a tie for the division lead.
Once again, a sloppy offensive performance nearly equated to a loss. Except it didn’t. The Eagles escaped with a 34-28 win in a game they led 27-7.
“Tough 4-1, soft 4-1, doesn't matter, you're 4-1, and it's the same thing,” Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said following the win. “You could be 1-4, 4-1, you have to go back to work on Tuesday and that's what our whole mantra is.”
It has been a tough road for the Eagles to get to 4-1. The road only gets tougher as the season moves along.
There are a lot of things to like about the Eagles, most notably special teams and a pass rush that created three turnovers on Sunday. Those are the positives to a 4-1 start.
Remember, a season ago, the Eagles had to fight back from a 1-3 start and a 3-5 start to earn a 10-6 record. Sitting at 4-1 through five games doesn’t warrant criticism on the system.
Something clearly works for this team and it shows in the way they consistently score points. There is no denying that.
Execution is a whole different subject. And the Eagles are not executing in certain areas.
There were three glaring areas on Sunday that need to be addressed soon. One would certainly hope these areas are addressed and improved by next Sunday night’s game against the Giants that ushers the Eagles into the bye week.
Nick Foles looked less than stellar again. In the beginning, he played the type of game he needs to during this season.
Last season, Foles had the luxury of working with a spread field. DeSean Jackson was the deep man on most plays. He took multiple members of the secondary with him. That helped Riley Cooper and Zach Ertz and others get open quicker and Foles to make quick decisions.
With Jackson gone, there is no deep man. So the goal is to keep moving the chains and let the big plays come when they will. Foles was doing that early, until hitting the Rams 10-yard line when two early drives stalled. Those weren’t necessarily his fault.
A deep interception to Jeremy Maclin and a fumble lost after failing to slide on a significant run are his fault, however, and they are the crucial mistakes that cannot be made. Foles was making risky throws for most of the second half. It only truly hurt him once. But whatever is forcing Foles to make these poor decisions, rush the play and flat out lose his head, it needs to be corrected and no coaching will do it.
“We have a lot of improving to do. We all know that and that’s what really excites us,” Foles said. “We had spurts where we were moving the ball and doing great things and making plays. We just have to do a better job with the turnovers. I need to do a better job with the ball and we need to just be better with that. We’ll fix that and we’ll keep working.”
The Eagles running game took some time to get going, but again, we saw the struggles that held LeSean McCoy to just 39 yards in two games. He finished Sunday’s game with 81 yards, a much better performance all things considered.
But McCoy also fumbled – and lost the ball to the Rams – on a play where Foles set him up poorly with a screen pass. If McCoy would have simply lost three or four yards on that poor pass, we’re looking at Foles on this play. But McCoy bounced around in the backfield four or five times before attempting to fall on it. All of the effort to try to make something out of nothing lost the Eagles the ball.
“We didn’t really produce like we usually do. A lot of games have been weird,” McCoy said, “because we are getting special teams and defensive touchdowns early and the offense has to sit on the sideline and wait. The first quarter is almost done before we get going. It’s been tough battling that, but we have to do a better job of staying focused and getting it done.”
Finally, the Eagles secondary played a pathetic game in the fourth quarter. Early on, they too were making plays. But the number of times Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams failed to look for the ball when attempting to defend passes was inexcusable.
“There is a lot of room for improvement, but this team is a very good team,” linebacker Trent Cole said. “As players, we have to be responsible for our mistakes, be disciplined and make sure we don’t go out there and get penalties. If we can do those things, we can be a very good team.”
These are professional players with several years of experience. These mistakes are college mistakes. Post bye week, facing the Panthers, Packers and Seahawks, the Eagles will never win if these mistakes aren’t improved.
So there is the challenge with being a tough 4-1. A 4-1 start is great. And yes, at the end of the day, sloppy football somehow has the Eagles holding the best record in the NFC.
But how long before these continued mistakes hurt the Eagles and their playoff hopes?
A look at the standings says the Eagles are set to be a playoff contender, to host several playoff games and make a run at a Super Bowl. But the performance on the field doesn’t.
4-1 or not, there are plenty of teams out there that see the weaknesses and are preparing to take advantage. Without due diligence, the 4-1 Eagles won’t see that record get any better.
Kevin Durso is a contributor for Eagledelphia. Follow him on Twitter @KDursoPhilsNet.