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Running Game Takes Over In Second Half

Posted Nov 19, 2017

The box score looked odd after the first half.

The Eagles' rushing output (35 yards) was nearly doubled by the Cowboys (69 yards) and Philadelphia found itself trailing at intermission for the first time since Week 2. When the team emerged from the locker room, it felt like a new offense appeared spearheaded by the run game.

The running backs tacked on 180 yards on the ground in the second half and once again eclipsed the 200-yard rushing plateau. On the night, the rushing attacked finished with 215 yards and two touchdowns in a 37-9 victory.

For starters, Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount were a bruising one-two force after the break. The dread-headed duo wore down the Cowboys’ frontline combining for 148 rushing yards on 20 carries for an eye-popping 7.4 yards per touch. On separate occasions, the two broke loose for back-breaking pickups that led to scores for the offense.

Midway through the third quarter, Ajayi flipped a second-and-6 at the Philadelphia 14 and high-tailed 71 yards inside the Dallas 20-yard line. Quarterback Carson Wentz and wide receiver Torrey Smith polished off the setup with a touchdown. A quarter later, Blount tracked 30 yards through several tackles to put the Eagles just outside red zone territory which resulted in another Eagles’ score.

“We decided to stay disciplined and determined to the run game. Get it started,” Ajayi said following the win. “We were kind of asleep I would say in the first half and kind of woke up in the second half, got to our run game, and just dominated after that.”

Just to show how deep the running back room is, neither Ajayi nor Blount scored touchdowns.

Kenjon Barner got the night started for the Eagles on the opening drive when he nose-dived in for a 4-yard touchdown to give the Eagles a 7-6 lead. In the second half, rookie Corey Clement put the Eagles in front for good.

Clement ran up the middle for an 11-yard touchdown and followed it up with a two-point conversion that created a 15-9 lead for Philadelphia. The running game went wild from that point on.

Offensive coordinator Frank Reich said earlier in the week that Clement has “a little bit of extra want-to” that not many players have. With six touchdowns on the year, Clement is tied for the team lead in scores. More notably perhaps, all of the rookie’s touchdowns have come in the red zone.

“We just go out there knowing what we’re doing and that’s being confident and playing fast," Clement said. "(Running backs coach) Duce Staley does an awesome job of making sure that everybody stays tight, nobody’s being selfish so when somebody gets the chance to unleash we’re all behind that one person.”

At 9-1, the Eagles boast arguably one of the league’s deepest and most dynamic set of running backs. It should come as no surprise that head coach Doug Pederson made the group the focal part of the game plan.

“We just wanted to commit back to the run. We didn’t really change anything at halftime. We just committed to the same runs that we had,” Pederson said Sunday night after the win. “We felt like we could just stay between the tackles and get some good double teams in there and the guys did a great job. The offensive line, tight ends, even the ball carriers breaking some tackles and making some good plays.”

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