When the 2022 Philadelphia Eagles started an offensive drive, they had an average lead of 4.8 points — a figure that led the league. The Eagles could sustain leads throughout games partly due to excelling at getting a lead early. No team has been better at starting games on the opening drive than Philadelphia this season.

Including the playoffs, the Eagles have scored on 63.2% of their opening drives. The only team higher is the (hang on for this one) Chicago Bears at 70.6%. 52.6% of the Eagles’ opening drives ended in a touchdown. The only other team to hit 50% was the Minnesota Vikings who scored a touchdown on exactly half of their drives. The aforementioned Bears only reached the end zone on 23.5%.

Only 5.3% of the Eagles’ opening drives — one of 19 — ended in a three-and-out.

The Eagles averaged a league-high 4.0 points per drive and 1.61 EPA per drive, according to TruMedia. Starting fast isn’t exactly easy. This season, the league as a whole averaged -0.31 EPA per drive, the second-lowest rate of the past decade, and 2.06 points per drive. Just 21.8% of opening drives ended with a touchdown, the lowest rate since  2017.

Join the Sharp Football Newsletter
Get NFL insights & analysis

Over the course of the game, the Eagles are one of the most run-heavy teams in the league. Including the playoffs, Philadelphia has a 50-50 run-pass split, but on the opening drive, the Eagles are one of the league’s pass-happiest teams with a 63.6% pass rate. There might not be a better example of a throw-to-score, run-to-win philosophy than the 2022 Eagles. After the first drive, Philadelphia drops to a 48.1% pass rate for a full game, 56.1% for the remainder of drives in the first half.

The Eagles also use pace better than any team in the league to open up games. Per TruMedia, Philadelphia has the fastest seconds per play on an opening possession. The Eagles have used a bunch of no huddle but that’s not really where this team has succeeded. On those no huddle plays, the Eagles actually average -0.32 EPA per play with a 35.9% success rate but the overall pacing of getting to the line and getting the ball off quickly has helped.

With that fast, pass-heavy approach, Philadelphia has used 11 personnel on 80.1% of opening drives this season, which is the third-highest rate in the league behind the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals, two teams that live in 11 throughout the game. The Eagles drop to 68.9% 11 personnel for the rest of the first half. Overall, the Eagles rank seventh in the use of 11 personnel for the season.

So much of what the Eagles do on those opening drives runs through the receivers. A.J. Brown ranked second in receiving yards and tied for second in targets on opening drives this season. DeVonta Smith was fifth in both. Only two other teammates — Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle — were in the top 15 for targets but so was Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert.

Having Brown and Smith would stress a defense in general, as was the case throughout the year, but there was an added strain the Eagles put on opposing defenses by stretching the field both horizontally and vertically.

Jalen Hurts used empty formation on 20.8% of his dropbacks on the opening drive of the game. That rate drops a bit to 15.4% for the remainder of the game. Out of empty on the first drive, Hurts averaged 0.73 EPA per play with a 10.11-yard aDOT. 26.3% of his opening drive pass attempts from empty traveled at least 20 air yards. Hurts was 3-of-5 on those plays while the rest of the league combined to go 4-of-15.

Against the Titans in Week 13, Hurts hit Smith on a 34-yard touchdown from empty. Smith was the isolated receiver to the left in what turned into a 4×1 set with running back motion before the snap. Even with the Titans in a two-high shell, the Eagles were able to pull the safety to Smith’s side down to open up the middle of the field for Smith’s route.

Here’s the play in motion:



When the Eagles have taken those shots, they’ve been able to manipulate the safeties to create throwing lanes. This worked even when the Eagles weren’t in empty. Against the Giants in the Divisional Round, the Eagles opened up a 40-yard pass to Smith. The Eagles came out in 12 personnel but kept the tight end to Smith’s side in to block. Brown ran a crossing route from the opposite side which drew in the safety to that side. Smith ran his route straight at the safety to his side and by the time he broke, there was plenty of leverage and separation for a pass outside the numbers.


Passing isn’t the only aggressive way the Eagles have approached these opening drives. No team has gone for more fourth downs in those situations than the Eagles, tied with the Chargers on six attempts. Philadelphia failed to convert on a fourth-and-5 from the opposing 40-yard line against Detroit in Week 1 but have converted five straight (this includes the DeVonta Smith on-catch against the 49ers). The Eagles went on to score on four of those drives, including a fourth down touchdown near the goal line. From those fourth downs alone, the Eagles gained 15.15 EPA. 

Eagles Opening Drive Fourth Downs, 2022
data per TruMedia

WeekDistance to FirstField PositionYards GainedEPADrive Result
W15Opp 400-2.28Downs
W41Own 3033.02Interception
W51Opp 322.50Touchdown
W82Opp 4453.44Touchdown
W92Opp 223.67Touchdown
LC3Opp 35294.80Touchdown

Once the Eagles get into the red zone, the switch flips to the ground game. 52.6% of the Eagles’ opening drives reached the red zone — 10-of-19 — and eight of them finished in the end zone, an 80% conversion rate. No team is better at creating open rushing lanes in the condensed space near the goal line. When at the goal line the Eagles have used Hurts on the unstoppable quarterback sneak. But on rushing attempts outside of that, they’ve been able to bully teams along the lines.

Here’s the hole for a 2-yard Miles Sanders touchdown against the Texans in Week 9:

And a 3-yard touchdown against the Giants in Week 14:

And a 6-yard touchdown against the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game:

All of this makes the Eagles dangerous throughout the game but they’ve been so good at pushing these buttons to make them effective at the start. Some teams work well with the opening script and then fall apart as the game goes on. Philadelphia has been able to kill that opening script and use it to make the rest of the game easier, which plays into their hands with a dominant offensive line. 

Playing from ahead can certainly open things up for teams on both sides of the ball and no team has been better at getting out to that quick start than the Eagles this season.

Get up to $1,000 First Bet Offer
For new customers to BetMGM