It is hard to win a Super Bowl. It’s very hard to win back-to-back Super Bowls and downright impossible to maintain a consistent level of brilliance in the NFL unless you’re based in Foxboro and everyone hates you.
But it’s not the hardest thing in the world to resemble your former brilliant selves, especially when you’ve held onto the majority of the key players you had from your title-winning campaign.
So what exactly is going on in Philadelphia? It feels like the City of Brotherly Love has been left out in the cold following the warmest of summers in east Pennsylvania. So what went wrong?
Well, it certainly isn’t Carson Wentz. Of that much, I can assure you. He’s playing lights-out – averaging 300 yards a game with a 70% completion rate and a ten-to-one touchdown to interception rate.
Usually when you flick through a couple of statistical categories, you can find the answer. So I did that with Philly.
But it’s not exceptionally obvious. Philadelphia are above average against the run and above average against the pass. So, if they’re moving the ball and holding teams to workable points tallies, then where’s the issue?
They’ve the highest average time of possession in the league, so it’s not fatigue. That statistic alone should play into their hands enough to get them some wins.
After some more pondering, I went back to watch the Eagles and noticed one key issue with them compared to last year’s unit.
Red zone scoring. They’re paying a serious price for losing Frank Reich and making an internal promotion.
True, Carson Wentz is getting them downfield and they’re balancing run and pass well enough to be unpredictable. But losing Jay Ajayi makes them one dimensional in short goal-to-go situations.
As we saw in London yesterday, you can have all the weapons you like in the red zone, but if a team doesn’t believe you can power past them, they’ll commit to coverage and force a bad throw.
Last year, the Eagles were second in red zone touchdown efficiency. This year? 17th.
Running the ball in short yardage situation is an awful idea most of the time, unless you’ve Marshawn Lynch (shout-out to Pete Carroll), but the threat of the run keeps defences honest – meaning you’ve more one-on-one opportunities on the outside with your receivers and tight ends.
Zach Ertz is one of the better red zone targets in the league, but he’s double-covered most plays because nobody expects a Jay Ajayi-less Philly to stick it up the gut.
Frank Reich knew this, so he’d often throw in run plays with no expectation just to tease the idea of it. As is usually the case, teams come up short when they making switches in their coaching staff. Mike Groh was a receivers coach, so it’s not major surprise he doesn’t want to run the ball.
After they play the Jags at Wembley, a must-win for both sides, they go on a run(!) of games against the Cowboys, that Saints defence, the Giants, Redskins and Cowboys again.
They can fall into a 10-win season, but they need to learn how to scheme players open within the 20 again, or they’re destined to suffer that championship hangover.