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.
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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