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Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles have learned to close out games

Louie DiBiase

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Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Gino Cammilleri reporting

In just over two short years the Eagles learned one great skill: How to finish

After the firing of coach Chip Kelly, Jeffrey Lurie went into 2016 offseason in search of “his guy.” Many could see the culture Kelly had developed was not met with much love by many of the players. Lurie wanted to be more involved in the coaching search after the failed Kelly experiment.

Rather than selecting a “football genius,” the Eagle owner wanted to find someone who excelled in the soft skill area of coaching. Maybe not the first choice the fans had wanted (myself included), Doug Pederson was hired as the next head coach for the Eagles. Being a first-time head coach, not many knew what to expect of coach Pederson coming into the 2016 season.

In the first three games of the 2016 NFL season, the Eagles stormed out of the gates to a 3-0 record.

With wins over the Browns, Bears, and an upset victory over the Steelers, Pederson’s Eagles looked destined for the playoffs. Going into a bye week at the most inopportune time may have thrown off the team’s mojo.

The Eagles would go on to win only two out of their next eleven games, finishing the season at a middling 7-9.

After missing the playoffs in 2016, Doug and co. knew that making a jump in 2017 was the number one priority. And as we all know the 2017 Eagles were vastly improved. From missing the playoffs to Super Bowl Champions in one year, coach Pederson went from hot-seat to Philadelphia royalty.

But what changed for this Eagles team in just one year?

The coaching staff stayed the same. The roster was overhauled for the better. But there was one underlying element that made this team go from good to great. They learned how to finish.

The 2016 Eagles were known for blowing wins late in games. From the Ryan Mathews fumble against the Lions, to the atrocious play calling against the Cowboys late in Jerry World. Not to mention allowing Kirk Cousins to march down the field against Washington.

Oct 9, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay (23) forces a turnover against Philadelphia Eagles running back Ryan Mathews (24) during the fourth quarter at Ford Field. Lions win 24-23. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

That 2016 team clearly lacked the clutch-gene.

In one-score games, the Eagles finished with a less than ideal record of 1-6. Fast forward a year later to 2017. The Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles team finished the year with a record of 7-2 in one-score games, two of which came in the playoffs.

The first game of the budding 2018 season, the Eagles started hot with a 1-0 record, which happened to be a one-score game. There are many different factors that had a hand in the way the Eagles closed games. Carson Wentz had an MVP-caliber season. Doug Pederson’s play calling exponentially improved. The defense asserted themselves as one of the best in the league. But the one element that may have created the biggest shift in the organization can be attributed to a new culture.

When Jeffrey Lurie hired Doug to be the head coach, it was clear that there was a paradigm shift in the Eagles organization. Chip Kelly was focused more on “scheme beats talent,” and we all know how well that went.

Coach Pederson came in with the mentality that if his players bought in they could achieve greatness. After the finale of 2016, Doug made it known that being 7-9 “sucks.” Pederson knew the talent he had in that locker room. He knew how special Carson was. He knew how elite the defense was. He knew he had everything he needed to win. All he needed was the team to buy in.

Come 2017, all the chips were in the middle of the table. The team had bought in. By simply looking at the statistics of the team you can see that the 100% bought into Doug’s mentality.

Offense Rushing Passing 3rd  Down Conversion % 4Th Down Conversion % Red Zone Scoring %
2016 11th – 1,813 yds, 16 TDs, 113.31 Y/G 24th – 3,585 yds, 16 TDs, 224.06 Y/G 85/224 – 37.9% 13/27 – 48.1% 27/55 – 49.1%
2017 3rd – 2,115 yds, 9 TD’s, 132.19 Y/G 13th – 3,737 yds, 38 TDs, 233.56 Y/G 96/230 – 41.7% 17/26 – 65.4% 36/55 – 65.5%

 

Defense Rushing Passing 3rd Down Defense % 4th Down Defense % Red Zone Defense
2016 15th – 1,652 yds, 10 TDs, 103.3 Y/G 13th – 3,832 yds, 25 TDs, 239.5 Y/G 82/205 – 40.0% 8/18 – 44.4% 23/51 – 45.1%
2017 1st – 1,267 yds, 7 TDs, 79.2 Y/G 17th – 3,637 yds, 24 TDs, 227.3 Y/G 66/205 – 32.2% 4/18 – 22.2% 21/38 – 55.3%

Statistics from Pro Football Reference

Coach Pederson inherited a cultureless Chip Kelly Eagles team and molded them into the Super Bowl Champions he knew they could be. It is well known that talent does not win championships (i.e. the “Dream Team” 2011 Eagles), but how well that talent meshes together.

These aren’t the same old Eagles. This locker room is different. This coach is different. These players are different. These are the new Eagles. A team that plays with passion. A team that plays for its city. A team who finishes games. A blue-collar team that takes pride in their work

Louie, an Eagles, and NFL enthusiast all his life has finally found his home to share his thousands of takes on the Philadelphia Eagles with Locked on Eagles. Louie also works in Buffalo sports radio as a producer for WGR Sports Radio 550 the official home of the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres, in addition to working as the Sports Director for 91.3 FM WBNY Buffalo. He may be far from the nest, but Louie bleeds green just like the rest of Eagles Nation. Fly Eagles Fly.

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