If there’s one thing we know about the Philadelphia Eagles, it’s how much focus is placed on red zone execution. Both sides of the ball pride themselves on being as efficient as possible when inside the 20 and after a sputtering start for the offense and defense this season, they faced a tall order.
Going into Thursday night, the Packers ranked 4th in red zone defense and 1st in red zone passer-rating. The Eagles were limping out of a game that should’ve been sealed long before the fourth quarter and were doing so with a wounded offense. It just didn’t look promising.
But then the game started. The Eagles were 4/4 on red zone drives, with Carson Wentz throwing 3 touchdowns in the process. Alshon Jeffery’s 6-yard TD reception was his third of the season and his 17th as an Eagle. Since joining the team in 2017, he ranks third among wide receivers in red-zone touchdowns, with 15 of his 17 coming inside the 20.
Even without DeSean Jackson, the Eagles have one of the most lethal offenses in the NFL, especially inside the red zone. There has been a recent emphasis on adding ‘size’ to the equation and it’s easy to see why.
|JJ Arcega-Whiteside||WR||6’3||221 lbs|
|Zach Ertz||TE||6’5||250 lbs|
|Dallas Goedert||TE||6’4||260 lbs|
|Alshon Jeffery||WR||6’3||218 lbs|
With Jordan Howard powering his way up the middle only complicating matters, defenses are faced with a dominant offensive line and skill position players the size of mountains. Oh, and not to mention a deadly accurate Carson Wentz, who already has 9 touchdowns and just 2 picks through 4 games. 5 of those touchdowns have come inside the 20, an area where Wentz has completed 57% of his passes and not turned the ball over once.
On the other side of the ball, the offense was finally complimented by its defense. The Packers burst out of the gate to a 7-0 lead and were racking up passing yards for fun. But on two drives into the red zone, the Eagles held firm and kept Aaron Rodgers in check, forcing a fourth-and-short and ultimately a pair of field goals. Green Bay were just 3/7 in terms of red zone conversion, defining the ‘bend but don’t break’ mentality employed by Schwartz.
Of course, even that comes as a beneficiary of the elite run defense. The Birds have allowed just 97 rushing yards and 2 rushing touchdowns through 4 games. That equates to 1.8 yards per carry.
So with the game up for grabs and the Packers at the Eagles goal-line with under a minute to go, they didn’t run the ball. They didn’t even bother to waste a snap. Instead, Aaron Rodgers tried to thread the eye of the needle on a trio of consecutive occasions and was stopped by a combination of Craig James and Nigel Bradham.
The Packers offense and defense were both flying high coming into this matchup, and both were shot out of the sky when it mattered most. It took a little while for things to smoothen out for the Eagles, but now the seas are no longer stormy, this team is flourishing where it matters most. Inside the red zone.
Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports