The Michael Vick-led Eagles offense, which recently broke the franchise record for points scored in a season, employs one of the league's most explosive passing attacks.
But often forgotten is the effectiveness of the running game – anchored by second-year back LeSean McCoy.
McCoy led the NFC in yards per carry (5.2) among running backs who had over 200 rushing attempts this season. His seven rushing touchdowns ranked sixth in the conference, and his 1,080 yards rushing were the most in his career. The 22-year-old from Pittsburgh has become the best-kept secret on a stacked Eagles offense, and may be the X-factor Sunday against the Packers.
Green Bay runs a 3-4 defense, which can be difficult to scheme against in terms of pass protection. It does, however, open up lanes for the ground game – something the Eagles may employ on wild card weekend.
"The 3-4 defense invites you to run the ball a little bit more," McCoy said Thursday. "It forces you to run it on them. You also want to keep the hits off of Mike (Vick). The last few games he's been taking some blows. So we'll try to run it a little bit, try to get him out of the pocket a little more, just try to help him out."
The combination of Vick and McCoy quietly racked up some historic rushing totals. The Eagles averaged a franchise-best 5.4 yards per carry this season, which ranked first in the NFL (a half-yard better than any other team) and sixth-best in NFL history. They also became the first NFL team to average at least 4.0 yards per carry in each of their 16 regular season games.
A fearsome rushing attack combined with Vick's ability to make plays with his arm led the Eagles to the second-ranked offense in the NFL – and one that likes to strike fast. The Eagles have scored touchdowns on seven opening drives this season, and hold a 7-0 record when doing so.
McCoy thinks that setting the tone early is key to defeating a Packers team known for scoring in bunches.
"It's big to get off on the right foot early in the game," McCoy said. "Playing physical is a big key for us. Run the ball at them a little bit, take some shots, just play our usual ball. I think lately we haven't been playing our type of high-scoring offense. I think it will be good for us to start out well."
McCoy credited the offense's lack of efficiency in recent weeks to a general lack of focus - a penalty here, a dropped pass there … little things that throw off a team's rhythm. Asked to assess the team's focus this week, McCoy said he's been impressed with what he's seen.
"Knowing that the stakes are so much higher, it's the playoffs, I just think that everyone is playing together," he said. "Our goals are still at hand, and we just have to go out and handle our business. Everyone's focus this week has been excellent knowing what's at risk, and what knowing what kind of game it is."
-- Posted by Josh Goldman, 3:45 p.m., January 6