The 1 thing Eagles desperately need to fix after loss to Patriots

Dave Zangaro

The Eagles on Sunday had their worst third-down game of the season. 

That was largely because they made it really tough on themselves. 

The Birds converted just 3 of 13 chances on third downs against the Patriots, but nine of those 13 attempts came on 3rd-and-8 or longer. They converted just one of those nine and their average yardage to gain on third downs against the Patriots was 8.32. 

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It's hard to convert in situations like that. 

"That's the thing," head coach Doug Pederson said. "I think we were in too many 2nd-and-longs. I think we had 12 or more. I think second down and eight, nine plus, and then 3rd-and-8, we had like another eight or nine of those in the game Sunday. You can't - it's hard to overcome."

Of those nine 3rd-and-longs, three of them were set up by penalties earlier in the set of downs: An ineligible man downfield, and two false starts. Another was set up by a sack. 

To put it really simply: the Eagles have to try to either avoid third downs altogether or pick up yards on first and second downs to give themselves a chance. 

"So that's an emphasis this week," Pederson said. "We've have to do better on first and second down; obviously that helps third down. If you can create more first downs to eliminate the third down overall, that's even better. But we know that we have to keep it a little bit more manageable."

Under Pederson, the Eagles have now had eight games in which they've converted on 25 percent or fewer third down opportunities and they're 2-6 in those games. In the NFL this season, teams that have been under 25 percent on third downs are 16-49. 

So you can win without being good on third downs, but it's really hard. 

Coming into last weekend, the Eagles were actually third in the NFL in third-down conversion percentage at 48.4 percent and after last week's mess, they're still fifth in the NFL at 46.0 percent. 

Even with all their offensive shortcomings this year, that's a pretty significant jump from the 41 percent (12th in the NFL) last season. 

Situational football was a big emphasis for the Eagles this offseason and third downs were certainly included in that. And it's made a difference. But they really can't afford to have games like the one they did against the Patriots. This offense lacks firepower, so playing behind the sticks is a recipe for disaster. 



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The 1 thing Eagles desperately need to fix after loss to Patriots originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

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