Constant slow starts threatening to derail promising Eagles season originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
When the Cowboys raced out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter Sunday night, there was an unavoidable sense of … “Here we go again.”
By halftime it was 24-6 Cowboys and that was pretty much ball game.
The same script just keeps repeating itself.
For the sixth straight week, the Eagles trailed at halftime. For the fifth straight week, Jalen Hurts didn’t throw a touchdown pass in the first half. For the fourth straight week, they trailed by at least a touchdown going into the third quarter.
The Eagles over the past six weeks have taken slow starts to a new level.
The last time they led at halftime was the Miami game back in Week 7 and the last time they scored more than seven points in a first quarter was opening day in New England.
They’ve been outscored 38-12 in the first half of their back-to-back losses to the 49ers and Cowboys, and they’ve been outscored 106-50 in the first half going back to the second Washington game.
This is only the ninth time in franchise history the Eagles have trailed at halftime six weeks in a row and only the second time in the last 40 years. It’s the 10th time they’ve trailed by a touchdown or more at halftime in four games in a row.
And the first time ever the Eagles have allowed 14 or more points in the first half of six consecutive games.
It’s bad. Really bad. And so far, Nick Sirianni and his staff have been unable to fix it.
The Eagles have been outgained in the first half of each of their last six games – by an average of 220 yards to 140.
Since Week 8, they have five touchdowns in the first half on 29 drives and they’ve allowed 13 TDs on 31 drives.
They haven’t scored on consecutive drives in the first half since the Miami game.
They have one takeaway before halftime in the last six games – Kevin Byard’s interception of Patrick Mahomes – but they’ve committed five turnovers.
The Eagles still share the best record in the NFL – this is the 31st consecutive week that’s been the case. They’re still 10-3. They still control their destiny in the division and will lock up at worst the No. 2 seed by finishing the season with wins over four teams that all currently have losing records.
But the slow starts are alarming.
The reality is the Eagles haven’t looked prepared at the start of a game in two months. They haven’t executed on either side of the ball. They haven’t made big plays on either side of the ball. They haven’t converted third downs or gotten stops on third down.
Week after week, the Eagles sputter to start games. For four weeks, they did enough to overcome the sluggish starts. The last two weeks it caught up with them.
“We’ve got to start faster,” Sirianni said Sunday night in Dallas. “We’ve got to start faster with our plan as coaches.
“I think when you’ve been down like we have the first half, it’s never just, ‘Hey, it’s all this.’ If we knew it was ‘all this,’ then we would do everything we could do to fix it. But again, in the beginning stages (of games), we’re not coaching well enough.
“We’re not playing well enough, and that’s my job as a head coach to make sure that we start fast, so I’m not doing a good enough job for us starting fast. We’ve played way more from behind and we’ve obviously got to figure that out.”
Since Week 8 in the first half:
D’Andre Swift is averaging 3.2 yards per carry, Jalen Hurts has one TD pass and two interceptions, Braden Mann has only one fewer pass completion of at least 25 yards than Hurts and the Eagles’ opponents have converted a staggering 59 percent of their third downs.
The Eagles are playing well in the second half, for the most part.
They outscored Washington at FedEx 28-14 to win after trailing by seven at halftime. They outscored the Cowboys in the first game 14-6 in the second half to win after trailing by three at the half. They came back from 10-point halftime deficits after outscoring the Chiefs 14-0 in the second half and the Bills 23-10.
But it’s impossible to come back every week. Especially against elite opponents.
If you’re going to call yourself a Super Bowl contender, you’ve got to figure out how to play 60 minutes of football. And for six weeks in a row now, the Eagles have failed to do that.