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Bruising Ground Game Leads Eagles

Posted Oct 1, 2017

CARSON, Calif. – Two weeks earlier running back LeGarrette Blount stood in the visitor’s locker room at Arrowhead Stadium answering questions about his lack of activity in the offense in a loss to Kansas City. Blount touched the ball once, as a receiver, and the questions came fast and furious ...

CARSON, Calif. – Two weeks earlier running back LeGarrette Blount stood in the visitor’s locker room at Arrowhead Stadium answering questions about his lack of activity in the offense in a loss to Kansas City. Blount touched the ball once, as a receiver, and the questions came fast and furious.

And the answer was consistent.

“That’s just how the game went,” Blount said then. “I can’t predict the future. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Well, a lot has happened in the last two weeks for Blount and the Eagles, with a win over the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field and then on Sunday a win at StubHub Center, 26-24, over the Los Angeles Chargers. Blount has re-emerged in the offense in a big way, and his 68-yard run on an inside zone call early in the fourth quarter of a too-tight-to-call game against the Chargers that combined Blount’s trademark bruising running style with some breakaway speed helped get the momentum back on the Eagles’ side and create some breathing room.

“That man’s angry. Feed him the ball,” quarterback Carson Wentz said. “From my vantage point, it was one of the most impressive runs I’ve seen live. He came out and was running angry today and it was good to see.”

Blount is known for being a basher in short-yardage situations, and he’s been running in a punishing manner as an Eagle, particularly in the last two games. In Los Angeles, Blount showed that he can break tackles and eat up gulps of yardage in a single run – last year Blount had seven runs of plus-20 yards, ranking sixth in the NFL.

No doubt, it was a huge play in a game in which the Eagles jumped out quickly to a 13-0 lead and then withstood repeated counterpunches from Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who passed for 347 yards and two touchdowns and hit the Eagles' defense with a handful of big plays to keep the pressure on Philadelphia’s offense to produce.

Impressively, the Eagles' offense went smash mouth on its final possession, taking control of the football at the Philadelphia 25-yard line after Los Angeles closed the difference to two points. Carson Wentz completed passes to Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, and the rest of the drive was run, run, run with Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, and Blount running behind an offensive line that won coming off the football.

Blount had a big run of seven yards on a second-and-8 play, forcing Los Angeles to use its final timeout with 1:54 remaining. On third-and-inches, Blount got the football again and burst through a hole, broke a tackle, and gained 15 yards to the 14-yard line.

Game over.

Statement made.

In all, the Eagles ran 11 plays before taking the victory formation and they ate the final 6:44 off the clock to win it.

“We’re running the ball, we’re being physical, and it’s wearing defenses down,” center Jason Kelce said. “What we did there is exactly what you hope to do – run out the clock, keep the chains moving, and end it by kneeling down.”

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It was a terrific win for the 3-1 Eagles, who did it once again with the running game. Blount was the hammer. He is a key piece for an offense that showed just how it wants to operate in the post-Darren Sproles era: Spread the ball around between Blount (16 carries, 136 yards rushing; 1 reception, 20 yards), Smallwood (10-34, 1 touchdown rushing and 4-45 receiving), and Clement (10 carries, 30 yards), who, by the way, ran for three first downs in that final, clock-eating drive.

Add it all up and think what this means: The running backs combined for 200 rushing yards and a touchdown on 36 yards.

Doug Pederson’s commitment to the run has paid off for this football team, particularly in the fourth quarter of the last two games. The four-minute offense, 6:44 to be exact, worked to perfection on Sunday.

“It starts with the guys up front. They did a great job opening things up,” Blount said. “We just kept running the ball and pounding away. Great game plan and execution.”

And how did Blount evaluate himself?

“I had a good day, I think,” he said, smiling.

No question about that. The Eagles have exceeded their road win total from 2016 and with losses by Dallas (to the Rams) and New York (now 0-4 after losing in Tampa Bay), the Eagles are all alone in first place in the NFC East. Washington plays at Kansas City on Monday night.

“There’s a long way to go but I feel good about being 3-1 and doing it the way we’ve done it,” tight end Zach Ertz (five catches, 81 yards) said. “We’ve been resilient. We’ve been tough. We’re going to keep playing hard and winning games.”

Blount didn't want to talk about two weeks ago. He wanted to talk about the win, the total team effort, and the bright picture this team has created with only one loss in three of four road games to open the season.

"It takes all 11 guys on the field to get it done," he said. "On that big run, the blocking was there and the play call was right and it just opened up for me. I just wish I had scored. I think I'm going to hear it from the rest of the (running back) room. Maybe I should have dived in.

"Next time, I'm scoring."

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