Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Eagles must get early lead vs. Saints

Eliot Shorr-Parks
January 10, 2019 - 7:52 am

The Eagles know all too well how quickly things can snowball on teams in New Orleans. 

In the team’s first matchup with the Saints, back in Week 11, quarterback Drew Brees and his offense scored on each of their possessions in the first quarter. Then they scored on their third possession. Then their fifth. 

“We all knew where that game was going,” head coach Doug Pederson said Wednesday, "and it wasn't going to be favorable for us.

It is safe to say that is an understatement, as the Saints scored the first 17 points of the game back in November on their way to a 48-7 beatdown of the Eagles. There is plenty the Eagles have to do in their rematch with the Saints this time around, but perhaps near the top of the list is making sure they get off to a much better, and much quicker, start. 

"We have to convert first downs on offense, be the best we can defensively, three-and-out, to start fast. I think offensively we've done that a little bit better here down the stretch,” Pederson said. “We’ve been able to get points off our first drives. Defense has done a nice job of getting three-and-out early, six-plays-and-out on the punt, getting the ball back to the offense.”

Pederson is right — the Eagles have done a far better job getting out to quick starts recently. After hovering around one point in the first quarter for most of the season, the Eagles have averaged 4.3 points in the first quarter since Nick Foles took over at quarterback, and scored three points in the first quarter against the Chicago Bears. Although three points isn’t anything to write home about, the points ended up being crucial in a close game, and helped to quiet down an extremely loud Soldier Field. 

For as loud as Soldier Field was, however, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome is going to be louder this Sunday — and getting off to a fast start is going to be even more crucial.
“Listen, those are things we do every single week. We try to do that every week, not just in this game. The importance of this game, because it is a one-and-done type deal, probably is a little more important.”

This year, the Eagles are 7-1 when they strike first, as opposed to 3-6 when the opponent gets on the board first. Last season, on their way to a Super Bowl victory, the Eagles were a perfect 9-0 when they scored first. Overall, Pederson’s team since 2016 is 22-3 when they score first (including the playoffs), but just 11-16 when they don’t. 

As dominant as the Saints have been this season, they have surrendered the first points in seven of their 15 games where all the starters played. That means the Eagles, especially with the Saints coming off of a 23-day break since their last meaningful game, do have a chance to grab an early lead. 

If the Eagles don’t, however, the chances of them advancing in the playoffs have to be considered slim — as the Saints are 7-1 this season when they take the first lead. 

You can follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks or email him at esp@94wip.com!

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