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Lawlor: These Numbers Are Simply Amazing

Posted Jul 2, 2017

Baseball is the ultimate numbers game. Football is harder to define by statistics because it is such a team game, but there are still some amazing numbers out there. Let's talk about some notable numbers and statistics from Eagles history.

Putting Gang Green's Greatness In Perspective

We'll start with the great Gang Green defense from 1991. The obvious number is that the Eagles were first against the run, the pass, and in total defense that season. There are some specific statistics, however, that really jump out at you. Gang Green held opposing runners to 2.97 yards per carry. Offenses want runners to gain at least 4 yards every time they touch the ball. That is incredible run defense.

You might think, 'OK, Gang Green must have had some coverage weaknesses.' That wasn't the case. Opposing quarterbacks completed just 44.1 percent of passes against them. That is mind-blowing. Defenses today are happy with a completion percentage of under 60. Football has changed, but holding teams to less than 45 percent is hard to imagine.

To put those numbers into context, the 1985 Bears, arguably the best defense of all time, allowed 3.67 yards per carry and a completion percentage of 47.7. The Eagles were clearly better in both categories. Gang Green was amazing on the field and the numbers they posted hold up against the best defenses of all time.

Randall Cunningham's MVP-Worthy Season

Eagles Hall of Fame quarterback Randall Cunningham had a great season in 1990. I'm not sure people truly appreciate the numbers he put up. Cunningham is known for his great scrambling, so let's start there. He ran for 942 yards and averaged 8 yards per carry. Those are crazy numbers for a quarterback. Cunningham was the Eagles' run game that year. He led the team in rushing and the next player behind him was almost 300 yards away. Cunningham's 942 rushing yards would have also led the Eagles in 13 seasons since 1990, including each of the past two years.

As for the 8 yards a carry, that is tough to put into perspective. Donovan McNabb, an incredibly gifted quarterback in his own right, averaged 7.3 yards a carry one year. He did that on 86 rushing attempts. Cunningham had a higher average, but also more carries. Cunningham ran 118 times in 1990. That is a rare number for a quarterback. He ran a lot and almost gained a first down every time he used his legs.

The ground game was only part of what made Cunningham's 1990 campaign so special. He threw 30 touchdown passes. In the past two seasons, the Eagles threw a total of 39 touchdown passes. They had more than 1,200 pass attempts. Cunningham needed just 465 attempts to get his 30 scoring throws. Ron Jaworski never had 30 touchdown passes. Michael Vick never came anywhere close to that total. McNabb had 31 in the Super Bowl season of 2004. Sports Illustrated dubbed Cunningham The Ultimate Weapon in 1989 and he lived up to that billing with the amazing stats he posted in 1990.

Reggie White's Dominance

Reggie White played on some great Eagles defenses and won a Super Bowl with the Packers. He is considered one of the greatest players in the history of pro football. I still don't think enough people appreciate what he did in 1987. There was a strike that year and most NFL players missed three or four games. White played in 12 of the Eagles' 16 games that year. He still finished the season with 21 sacks, one of the highest totals since the league began officially keeping the stat back in 1982.

Eagles defensive ends last year combined to have 16.5 sacks. Brandon Graham, who has been with the Eagles since 2010, has 29 career sacks. White had 21 in just 12 games. It is hard to wrap your head around that. To be fair, football has drastically changed in terms of the passing game. Quarterbacks took more five- and seven-step drops back then, meaning they held the ball longer. Offensive linemen weren't nearly as skilled at pass protection. Quick screens weren't a part of the NFL passing game. It also helped that Buddy Ryan moved White around. He played both end spots. There were times when he lined up over the center and White would just overwhelm that guy. Michael Strahan has the sack record, but it took him all 16 games and a gift from Brett Favre. White dominated the NFL in 1987.

An Argument For An All-Time Team

The 1949 Eagles won the NFL title. They went 11-1 that year and were clearly the best team in the NFL. The Eagles led the league in scoring and were second in yards gained. They had the top defense, allowing the fewest yards and points. It is hard to fathom a team in modern football finishing first in three of the four main team categories the way the Eagles did that year. That was a dominant team. It was no surprise they won the title with a season like that. Running back Steve Van Buren was the key player for the champion Eagles, leading the league in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns.

B-Dawk's Case For The Hall

Brian Dawkins had a great career for the Eagles. One thing he did better than just about anyone was knocking the ball out. Dawkins was the king of forced fumbles, finishing his career with 36 of them. That is an insane amount for a defensive back. Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed, and John Lynch are three of the safeties who most people compare Dawkins with. All of them were great players. That trio combined to have 41 career forced fumbles. Dawkins had 36 on his own. He was special.

Individual Games With Ridiculous Numbers

7: Some great numbers come from individual games. Nick Foles threw seven touchdown passes against the Raiders back in 2013, tying an NFL record. The stars aligned and Foles took advantage of his guys making plays against the struggling Raiders defense. The Eagles have had some dynamic quarterbacks over the years. It is hard to believe Foles is the guy who had the game for the ages.

191: One amazing stat that wasn't so good came back in 1992. The Eagles played at Seattle in what should have been a blowout. The Seahawks were 2-11 going into the game and the Eagles held them to just 87 yards of offense. Cunningham threw for 365 yards and the Eagles ran for 190. Huge blowout, right? Believe it or not, the game went to overtime. The main culprit was 191 penalty yards. The Eagles had a couple of games with more than 100 penalty yards last year, but nothing close to 191. That is a staggering figure. It caused the Eagles to go to overtime in order to come away with a 20-17 win.

11: Sacks are part of Eagles history. Back in 1991, Gang Green sacked Troy Aikman 11 times. The Eagles won the game 24-0 and Clyde Simmons led the way with 4.5 sacks.

60: No trip through Eagles history would be complete without talking about No. 60 Chuck Bednarik, affectionately known as Concrete Charley. How is this for a great game? In the 1960 NFL Championship game against Green Bay, Bednarik played all 60 minutes. He played center and linebacker and didn't miss a snap. There were 125 plays from scrimmage in that game, with 70 of them being runs. Bednarik was in the middle of the action all game long. The Eagles won the NFL title that day and Bednarik cemented his place in team history. Amazing.

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