Eagles running their way to the playoffs?

by Marc Narducci | Nov 22, 2021
Eagles running their way to the playoffs?

Ever since first-year Eagles coach Nick Sirianni committed to running the ball, the Eagles have been a different team.

They have turned their season around, having won three of their last four and at 5-6 are still very much in contention for a playoff berth.

With seven playoff berths in each conference, the Eagles (5-6) are currently in the ninth position. They are a half-game behind New Orleans (5-5) and San Francisco (5-5) which are seventh and eighth. However, the Eagles have beaten both New Orleans and San Francisco.

The remaining schedule is extremely favorable, where the Eagles play just one team with a current winning record, the Dallas Cowboys (7-3), in the final game of the season.

There are still two games each against the New York Giants and Washington Redskins and one against the New York Jets.

The main reason the Eagles have gotten back into the playoff picture has been their proficient running game.

In the last four games, the Eagles won 44-6 at Detroit, lost 27-24 at home to the Los Angeles Chargers, won 30-13 at Denver, before Sunday’s 40-28 home win over New Orleans that wasn’t even as close as the final score indicated.

After the first two of the four games, there were still skeptics because the running success came against still winless Detroit and the Chargers, who have one of the worst run defenses in the NFL.

Yet last two weeks, the Eagles ran all over Denver and New Orleans, two teams that have had success against the run.

Even after the Eagles ran for 236 yards against New Orleans, the Saints still rank third in the NFL in run defense after Sunday’s games, allowing 89.9 rushing yards per game. Denver was in the top half, standing at 14th, allowing 110.1 yards.

In the last four weeks, the Eagles have averaged 218.5 rushing yards per game. More impressively, the Eagles have averaged 5.0 yards per carry.

Here is what the Eagles accomplished on the ground the last four weeks

At Detroit – 46 attempts, 246 yards (5.1 avg.), four touchdowns.

Vs. LAC – 39 attempts, 176 yards (4.5 avg.), two touchdowns.

At Denver – 39 attempts, 216 yards (5.5 avg.), zero touchdowns.

Vs. New Orleans: 50 attempts, 236 yards (4.8 avg.) three touchdowns.

The Eagles have moved up to second in the NFL in rushing yards per game (153.4), trailing only the Cleveland Browns (156.8).

If anybody is looking for more positives, Sunday marked the return of their most talented back Miles Sanders, who missed the previous three games with an ankle injury.

Yes, Sanders fumbled that directly led to a Saints touchdown, but he had a strong return with 94 yards rushing on 16 carries.

For the season Sanders has rushed for 394 yards, but more impressively, he is averaging 5.0 yards per carry.

Sanders no longer has to carry the offensive load, but he can be a big part of it since he is the Eagles’ best home run hitter.

That’s because the running of Boston Scott and Jordan Howard has been solid. Howard, who suffered a knee sprain on Sunday that likely will keep him out this week against the Giants, has been the biggest surprise.

A former two-time 1,000-yard rusher with the Chicago Bears, who was buried on the practice squad in his second stint with the Eagles, Howard was promoted after Sanders’ injury. In the last four games, he has rushed for 274 yards (5.4 avg.) and three touchdowns.

During the last four games, Scott has rushed for 197 yards (5.0 avg.) and two touchdowns.

And of course, then there is quarterback Jalen Hurts, who has rushed for 257 yards (5.3 avg.) and three touchdowns in the last four games. All three scores came against New Orleans.

In the pass-happy NFL, Hurts has averaged just 19.5 attempts in the last four games. In the first seven games, he averaged 34.5 passing attempts.

The Eagles’ offensive line has been dominating in the run game, despite injuries this year. The recent starters have been Jordan Mailata and Lane Johnson as tackle, potential future Hall of Famer Jason Kelce at center and Jack Driscoll and rookie Landon Dickerson at guard.

It has become not only one of the top run-blocking lines but one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.

Teams with top offensive lines, usually have effective offenses and that has been the case for the Eagles.

There is still work to do as far as earning the playoff bid, but the Eagles continue to run in the right direction.

Photo Courtesy: Philadelphia Eagles 

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Author: Marc Narducci

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