When the Philadelphia Eagles hit the midway point of the season, they had a 3-5 record and were viewed as one of the bigger disappointments of the 2013 season. Chip Kelly's offense and defense were alternately struggling, but Philadelphia has been proof that a slow start doesn't necessarily mean a season will go in the tank.
The Eagles got out of the gate 1-3 because their fast-paced offense wasn't hitting on all cylinders and their defense was struggling to make stops. In their first four games, Philadelphia was outscored 138-99 – an average score of 35-25. You don't win many games when you allow 35 points a game.
The defense was the first to come around, despite still being on the field for an average of 34 minutes a game (eight minutes more than the Eagles offense). Philadelphia hasn't allowed more than 21 points in any of their last nine games. Teams win a lot of games when they allow 21 or less a game.
At midseason, one of the bigger issues for the Eagles was getting off to slow starts to games and not making good halftime adjustments. In their first eight games, the Eagles were outscored 50-34 in the first quarter and 56-30 in the third quarter. In their last five games, they have flipped the script – outscoring their opponents 28-3 in the first quarter and 58-20 in the third quarter.
After hitting bottom with home losses to the Cowboys (17-3) and the Giants (13-7), Philadelphia had lost all four of its home games and hadn't won a home game in a year. In the last three games – all at home – not only have the Eagles won all three, they've outscored their opponents 82-57.
The quarterback play was an issue during the Eagles' early struggles on both sides of the ball. Offensively, Michael Vick, Nick Foles and Matt Barkley combined to throw 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions in their first eight games. Over the last five, Foles has thrown 14 touchdowns with just one interception. Through the first eight games, the Eagles defense allowed 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Over the last five games, they have allowed six touchdown passes while intercepting seven passes.
The big-play players have found their stride as well during the current streak. In the first eight games, LeSean McCoy rushed 156 times for 733 yards and three touchdowns – an average of 20 carries for 92 yards. In the last five games, he has rushed 105 times for 592 yards and four touchdowns – an average of 21 carries for 118 yards. DeSean Jackson caught 45 passes for 673 yards (a 15.0-yard average) during the first eight games. Over the last five games, he has caught 20 passes for 407 yards (a 20.4-yard average).
The biggest difference on offense has been wide receiver Riley Cooper. Through Week 8, he caught just 20 passes for 314 yards and two touchdowns. In the five-game winning streak, he has caught 17 passes for 400 yards and five touchdowns.
Through the first eight games, the Eagles had 16 sacks of opposing quarterbacks, none from top pass rusher Trent Cole. Over the last five games, they have 13 sacks, five from Cole.
In the first half of the season, the Eagles had eight interceptions that were returned for a total of 60 yards. In the last five games, Philadelphia has seven interceptions that have been returned for 167 yards.
Through the first eight games, opposing quarterbacks were completing 63.3 percent of the passes (221 of 349). Over the last five games, they have completed 54.2 percent of passes (109 of 201).
When one looks at how the Eagles have made their turnaround from a 1-3 start and a 3-5 record at the season's midpoint to be alone atop the NFC East at 8-5, most people point to the play of Foles and McCoy as the reason. But when you look a little deeper, you see that the Eagles have played much better on both sides of the ball and have turned their season around by getting the offense and defense on the same page. It's a testament to the team staying committed to the principles that Kelly brought in and, at this point, the Eagles are looking like a team nobody will want to face in January.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Stats look: Eagles turn around early trends
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