If the Eagles are going to repeat in 2018, four things that went right for them last season on their way to the Lombardi Trophy need to go right again.

Third-down magic

The Eagles offense was exceptional on third down last season. They improved from 20th to eighth, but were ranked as high as second through 14 games.

They converted 41.7 percent of their third-down opportunities, despite the fact that 99 of their 230 third-down situations were 8 yards or more, which happened to be the ninth most third-and-longs in the league. That number needs to come down, but the Eagles managed to overcome it in 2017, converting an NFL-best 32.3 percent of their third-and-8-or-more situations.

With Nelson Agholor, Alshon Jefferey and Zach Ertz as his primary third-down targets, Carson Wentz led the league in third-down passing with a 123.6 rating. Fourteen of his 33 touchdown passes came on third down, which was the most in the league.

Then, in the playoffs, Wentz's replacement, Nick Foles, took third-down efficiency to a whole different level. The Eagles converted an unheard of 60 percent of their third-down chances in the playoffs, including 10 of 14 against the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game and 10 of 16 against the Patriots in Super Bowl LII.

Foles attempted 32 passes on third down in the playoffs. Just six were incomplete. He finished with a 158.1 third-down passer rating in the playoffs, which was the best in league history.

In the playoffs, Ertz became Foles' third-down go-to guy. The tight end had 18 catches in the Eagles' three postseason wins. Ten of them came on third down, including his game-winning 11-yard touchdown catch against the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

Finishing the job in the red zone

The Eagles weren't a very good red-zone team in Doug Pederson's first season. They finished 24th in red-zone offense in 2016, converting just 49.1 percent of their trips inside the 20-yard line into touchdowns.

Red-zone improvement was a top priority for the Eagles coach last year, and his offense spent a significant chunk of the 2017 spring OTAs and summer training camp working on red-zone situations.

It paid off. The Eagles' red-zone offense improved dramatically last season. They finished first in the league with a 65.5 red-zone touchdown percentage.

Wentz was every bit as good in the red zone as he was on third down. He led the league in passing inside the 20 with a 116.0 passer rating. The Eagles were the only team in the league without a red-zone interception or sack. They had just two red-zone turnovers, both on fumbles.

Ertz was one of the league's most productive red-zone receivers. He had a career-high eight touchdown catches. All of them came in the red zone. That matched the number of red zone TDs he had in his first four years in the league. Just two other players in the league had more red-zone TDs than Ertz — Seattle's Jimmy Graham (10) and Miami's Jarvis Landry (9).

"Zach is extremely smart and he really understands coverages; so he knows how to break people down," Eagles tight ends coach Justin Peelle said when asked about Ertz's effectiveness in the red zone. "He knows how to use his body to shield defenders. And then he and Carson are on the same page on a lot of things. It's pretty impressive the way those two can operate together.''

Out of the blocks fast

Statistically, at least, the Eagles had the league's best run defense in 2017, allowing just 79.2 rushing yards per game. They were sixth in opponent rush average (3.8 yards per carry).

But their offense had more than a little to do with that. Opponents averaged just 21.1 rushing attempts per game against the Eagles. That was the fewest in the league. Their 34.5 opponent run-play percentage also was the lowest in the league.

The reason teams ran so little against the Eagles had a little to do with the defense's ability to stop the run and a lot to do with the fact that opposing teams were playing from behind much of the game and forced to throw.

The Eagles outscored opponents in the first quarter, 106-48, and in the first half, 224-129. Their plus-58 first-quarter point differential was the largest in the league. As a result, opponents found themselves throwing the ball more than they really wanted to. The 601 pass attempts against the Eagles were the second most in the league. The only team that was thrown on more was Tennessee (605).

Opponents averaged 21.6 pass plays against the Eagles in the second half as opposed to just 9.8 rush attempts. In the fourth quarter, opponents averaged 13.2 pass plays and just 4.5 rush attempts.

"You look at us statistically last year against the run, I think we ended up No. 1 in rush defense,'' Eagles linebacker coach Ken Flajole said. "Well, you can put as much credit for that with our offense as anything else. Because we'd get a lead and people, I wouldn't say they would abandon the run game, but it certainly wasn't as big a part of what they were going to do.

"When you're down by a score in the fourth quarter or down by two scores, people have a tendency to throw the ball more. It certainly helped us statistically. The effect our offense had for us doesn't get lost at all.''

Getting off the field

Patrick Robinson's momentum-shifting interception return for a touchdown early in the Eagles' NFC Championship win over the Minnesota Vikings underscored his impact on the Eagles' defense last season.

On the verge of getting cut last August, he was moved inside to nickel corner by Jim Schwartz and ended up having the best season of his career

His solid play was a big reason Schwartz's unit was so good at getting off the field last season. Opponents averaged just 5.5 plays per drive against the Eagles, the fifth fewest in the league.

After finishing tied for 19th in third-down defense in 2016, the Eagles finished third last year. Their 32.2 third-down percentage was the lowest by an Eagles defense in 10 years.

Opposing quarterbacks had just a 66.4 passer rating and a 56.8 completion percentage on third down against the Eagles. The defense's nine third-down interceptions were the second most in the league. Jalen Mills had three of them. Robinson and Ronald Darby each had two.

Robinson's playoff interception against the Vikings' Case Keenum also came on a third-and-long play.

Robinson, who was a free agent, signed a four-year, $20 million deal with New Orleans. His likely replacement, second-year man Sidney Jones, is a talented player, but has limited experience inside.

"Robinson was a special guy,'' NBC's Sunday Night Football analyst Chris Collinsworth said. "It's amazing that he was able to find a position that fit him so well. He was the best slot corner in the league last year.

"Can you replace that? It's hard. Not impossible, but hard. Playing the slot is a completely unique position. I don't think people realize how valuable having a good one in there is."

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