The Eagles have blown four fourth quarter leads so far this season, easily the highest total in the NFL this season and among the most ever over the first half of an NFL season. Certainly there have been times when the offense has gone silent, but the running theme in all of those blown leads have been defensive collapses.
Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo was asked if he had any explanation for why the defense can play well for a quarter or two in a game and get gashed at the end?
"Yes, we talk about finishing, as a team we talk about finishing, and that's what we work on during the week." Castillo said. "We didn't give up a touchdown there at the end, we held them to a field goal, but you know, we had some penalties and they ate up some time. We've been, really, pretty decent during the year on third downs and we didn't do as good a job with the third downs. I've got to do a better job game planning the third down situations."
When asked what he can do to improve the performance of this group in season, Juan again stressed the importance of getting off the field on third downs.
"You know, the thing is you have to try to get this done and win games as you're doing this and keep going. I think the key thing is, for us this past week, third downs. You know, I think they were 7 out of 13. I think they were 50 percent. Normally, we've been better than that and those things keep the drives going. I think we had third-and-eight and third-and-10 plus a few times. And we need to get off the field and we had been good at that. So I think that's something that we've been focusing on. You know, today's our nickel day so we'll focus on that and we'll work on some of the fundamentals and some of the techniques and get them corrected."
What Castillo does not mention in his latter comments, which is troubling, are penalties and the effect they've had on third down performance this year. He talked about the penalties against Chicago earlier, but they've been an issue all year. Several times this season we've seen dumb penalties negate third down stops. Against the Bears it happened twice with Jason Babin and Nnamdi Asomugha both committing third down penalties that negated stops in the red zone.