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The Eagles are not taking the Giants lightly
The Eagles have forced just 18 turnovers since the start of the 2012 season. (AP)
When you’re not that good, turnovers are often your only hope. Your only chance.
And when you’re not that good and you don’t force turnovers, then you really have no chance.
“We have to be a turnover team,” Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis said.
They have to be. And right now, they’re not.
This isn’t a new problem. Since the Eagles began their methodical plunge toward the bottom of the NFC East a couple years ago, they’ve consistently failed to force turnovers on a regular basis.
From 2000 through 2011, when the Eagles reached the playoffs nine times and had just two losing seasons, they were seventh in the NFL with 356 takeaways, or about 1.9 per game over a 12-year span.
Since the start of 2012, when the Eagles have a 5-15 record, they’ve forced just 18 turnovers. That’s about 0.9 per game -- fewest in the NFL since opening day last year.
“Our turnovers are not high enough right now,” Davis said. “We’ve got to work on that.
“We talk about it a lot. We try to get our hands on as many balls in practice as we can. We've got to increase our turnovers and give our offense more possessions, just like the three‑and‑outs and getting off the field.
“The defense has to increase its production for the team to succeed. I really believe that, because we've got to get the ball in our offense’s hands more often than we are doing right now.”
So far, this year has mirrored last year. The Eagles forced four turnovers in last year’s opener in Cleveland, then forced only nine the rest of the year.
This year, they forced three in the opener in Washington but just two in three games since, both against the Chargers.
Since 1990, the Eagles are just 14-47 when they don’t force a turnover and 192-117-2 when they force at least one.
The last two years, they’re 4-5 when they force one or more and 1-10 when they don’t.
“The first game we had turnovers, second game we had turnovers,” said cornerback Brandon Boykin, who had a pick and forced fumble on opening day in Washington. “You’re not going to have that every single game, and I don’t think much has changed in our style of play. We’ve been playing fast, things just haven’t been going our way.
“So we can’t get discouraged because there’s been two games where we haven’t had turnovers and we haven’t done what we wanted to. Just continue to grind it out and play how you’ve been playing, and I think it will turn around.
“Especially this week.”
Especially this week, since the Eagles are facing the Giants, who’ve turned the ball over an NFL-high 16 times -- most by any NFL team after four weeks since the 1999 Cards committed 17.
“You’ve got to be excited, but we can’t go in saying, ‘We know they’re going to throw interceptions, because they’ve done it,’” Boykin said. “We’ve got to play fast and don’t try to do too much, and those opportunities will come.
“As long as we get a good pass rush and people do their jobs in the secondary, those opportunities will come.”
But they really haven’t gotten a good pass rush all year. The Eagles have just 10 sacks and rank 23rd in the NFL in sacks per pass play.
Another thing that’s been limiting the turnovers is that, because of their epidemic of missed tackles, opposing quarterbacks are throwing high-percentage, low-risk passes and getting big yards after the catch.
Those safe throws are virtually impossible to pick off. And during the Eagles’ three-game losing streak, Philip Rivers, Alex Smith and Peyton Manning have combined to complete 74 percent of their passes, with no interceptions in 118 attempts.
The Eagles have faced 168 passes this year -- seventh-most in the league -- with just two interceptions. Only five teams have fewer. Quarterbacks have thrown 154 consecutive passes against the Eagles (completing 112) without an interception.
Last year, the Eagles went an astonishing eight consecutive games at one point without intercepting a pass, a span of 245 straight passes that ended when Colt Anderson picked off Robert Griffin III.
“We have to get the ball,” linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. “That’s something we’ve been harping on and talking about in meetings and taking about here on the field. We have to create turnovers. That’s a must for our defense to be successful. We have to create turnovers and give our offense the ball.”