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Eagles' 'Second-Half Struggles' are Human Nature

Don't judge the Eagles on second-half lulls until they are tested

LANDOVER, Md. - The NFL likes to highlight how many one-score games there are every week in the league, playing up the parity among its 32 teams and the drama that in many ways feeds the golden goose of television ratings.

That hasn’t been the case with the 3-0 Eagles, however.

In fact, the Eagles haven’t scored in the fourth quarter yet and are still one of only two undefeated teams remaining, along with Miami, at 3-0, pending Monday night’s game between the 2-0 New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys.

The second quarter has been the No. 1-ranked offense’s wheelhouse and Sunday in the shadow of the nation’s capital Philadelphia put up a 24-spot in the second stanza en route to a 24-8 win with the final 30 minutes serving as NBA-style extended garbage time.

Through the first three games, the Eagles have scored a total of 86 points – 7 in the first quarter, 65 in the second, 14 in the third, and the Rachad Wildgoose-egg in the fourth.

In Week 2 against Minnesota, a 24-7 win, coach Nick Sirianni admitted he probably took his foot off the gas.

“We didn't score any points in the second half, right. And that's partly me,” the head coach said. “I think I did - I took my foot off the gas and forced [offensive coordinator] Shane [Steichen] to take his foot off the gas and I know I did that and that's not good enough on my part.”

Six days later Sirianni had a different take after a similar result.

"I think it was the exact opposite this week, we were pretty aggressive this week,” he said. “You guys saw how we played that second half, we were pretty aggressive. There's probably somewhere in the middle there, with the aggressiveness and the taking the foot off the gas.

“We're somewhere in the middle. And I'm always going to take responsibility for that and we have to put away a game like that. It's 24-0, we have to be able to put a game away.”

Sirianni noted Grant Calcaterra’s first NFL reception, a 40-yard chunk play as an example of the sense of urgency against the Commanders.

“We started it with the big pass to Grant. His first catch went for 40. … Great job there by him and great read by [QB] Jalen (Hurts)," he said. "Then we went negative play again, but you got to give [Washington] credit. 

"They did some good things right there. I felt like we played it almost the exact opposite we played it last weekend, and it might be somewhere in the middle if we get ourselves in that situation again.”

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Coaches always strive for perfection and, understandably, Sirianni didn’t want to double down on his “taking the foot off the gas” narrative after the Minnesota win. That’s simply not a recurring theme that a coach can default to.

The situations are identical, though, in that it’s human nature to ease up when things are well in hand.

The simple fact is that the Eagles already put the last two games away and never felt threatened in the second half against the Vikings or the Commanders so they played like it.

Searching for anything else is just nitpicking, at least until the Eagles are threatened late and need to play with a sense of urgency.

"I think we have yet to play our best ball yet," said Hurts. "I think we're close in terms of executing on a consistent basis through all four quarters of the football game. Last year, I remember being asked the question 'How close are you? You're saying this every week?' 

"Well, I think it's the same situation here. Just got three wins in our column but I could care less about it because we haven't played to our standard, yet. If we can continue to strive and play to our standard, everything else will handle itself."

In Week 1 at Detroit, when the outcome was in the doubt the urgency was real, the Eagles didn't score but it also put together a textbook example of a four-minute offense that bled the clock dry.

Further tests will come and the results of those should and will be critiqued.

Right now, though, pointing out the Eagles aren’t building on comfortable leads built when things are in doubt is the sign of the manufactured criticism of a very good team.

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-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's Eagles Today and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Sports. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talker Jody McDonald, every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on YouTube.com and JAKIBSports.com. You can reach John at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen