When DeSean Jackson goes over 50 receiving yards or scores a touchdown, the Eagles are 6-0. When he doesn’t, the Birds are just 1-3, not counting a 37-19 loss at Tennessee in which Jackson didn’t play due to his concussion.
Clearly teams that are successful against the Eagles find ways to bottle up the big plays downfield that are Jackson’s bread and butter. Yesterday in a 31-26 loss to the Chicago Bears in which he caught just two passes for 26 yards, Jackson appeared to grow frustrated throughout the game and at times lost focus. The normally reliable receiver dropped what would have been a touchdown during the fourth quarter on a first-and-goal play from the 10-yardline and the Birds went on to settle for a field goal.
“They’re all trying to take away the deep ball,” said quarterback Michael Vick. “They’ve been doing a fairly good job of doing that but the thing we’ll have to do is figure out what we can do and do it better.”
After the Jump: More from Vick on Jackson and some surprising statistics.
Since going off for 59 points in Washington in Week 10, the Eagles have seen Jackson bottled up. In fact, since the opening play from scrimmage in that game, when Jackson caught an 88-yard touchdown from Vick, the receiver has just 8 catches for 86 yards.
“We’ll get him going again, he just can’t get frustrated,” Vick said.
Therein lies the problem. While the rest of the Eagles offense has shown an ability to persevere when the big plays aren’t there, biding their time until things open up (see LeSean McCoy last week against the Giants), that isn’t the case with Jackson. When he’s not making plays early, he seems to vanish from the game, and the numbers back it up.
Jackson has five receiving touchdowns this season and all have come in the first quarter on either Philadelphia’s first or second drive. In fact, all but one of Jackson’s strikes were the first touchdown of the game. Against Atlanta, Jackson ran for the first score of the game on an end around and caught his touchdown pass on the Eagles’ following drive. Those trends are present throughout his NFL career, as Jackson has 13 first half touchdown catches and just three in the second half. In fact, his touchdowns decrease each quarter: 10 in the first, three in the second, two in the third and one in a fourth quarter.
Eagles head coach Andy Reid said that the Bears did nothing special to Jackson yesterday to slow him down.
“No, they weren’t,” Reid said, in a particularly bad mood during his postgame press conference.
“You know he has to understand that they’re professionals on the other side of the ball too,” Vick said. “We have some pretty good coaches, some damn good coaches and we’re going to make it work.”
The first step will be getting Jackson to improve his attitude and focus when things aren’t coming easily.
“Yeah, I’ll get the young guy together,” Vick said. “I’ll get him together, he’ll be alright.”
The Eagles certainly hope so. They’re 14-3 over the last two years when Jackson catches a touchdown or racks up 50 or more yards through the air. When Jackson plays and falls short of those numbers, Philadelphia is just 3-5.
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