Philadelphia Eagles News

Run Game Will Be There When Needed

The message has been consistent since the first day Chip Kelly became the head coach: This is an equal-opportunity offense, and the Eagles will do what is necessary to win any particular game. With the numbers -- points scored per game -- as evidence, Kelly knows what he's doing.

So why, after a Monday night win over Carolina when the Eagles ran for only 37 yards on 23 carries but scored 31 offensive points on a 45-point night, is there just the slightest tremor of panic about the ground attack?

As the Eagles prepare for Sunday's game in Green Bay, remember that the offensive approach is all about the numbers. If teams are going to load the box and blitz the line of scrimmage and do everything they can do to take away LeSean McCoy and the running game, doesn't it behoove the Eagles to do something other than smashing into a brick wall?

"It doesn't matter to us if we're running the ball or throwing it," center Jason Kelce said. "The name of the game is scoring points and winning games. We're doing that. We want to score on every play, but it doesn't work like that. Sometimes, the other team deserves some credit, too.

"If something isn't there, let's go get a better matchup and execute the call and make something good happen. We know that the running game will be there when we call on it and when the looks we get from defenses dictate that we should run the football."

That is one thousand percent correct. The Eagles led the league in rushing last season and LeSean McCoy paced the league in rushing yards and in yards from scrimmage, and now defenses have made some adjustments. Many of the teams the Eagles have faced this season, like Carolina, have made stopping McCoy the highest of priorities. They've stacked the area known as "the box," which is roughly 5-7 yards deep away from the line of scrimmage from offensive tackle to offensive tackle. They have blitzed the run lanes to clog McCoy's options and his ability to cut back and make big plays.

If quarterback Mark Sanchez, and Nick Foles before him, look at the defensive alignment as the Eagles line up and play tempo football, he is going to call the play that gives the Eagles the best percentages of success. Knowing that there are eight players in that "box" with their eyes focused on McCoy isn't quite the most favorable option.

"If they have more players lined up over us than we have blocking, it is hard to win those battles," said left guard Evan Mathis. "And it really makes no sense to think run then. If there are better-looking options elsewhere, you take that route."

McCoy's numbers are well off his 2013 pace. He's sixth in the NFL with 641 rushing yards on 173 attempts, which ranks second in the league. Early-season absences across the offensive line -- injuries to Kelce and Mathis and a four-game NFL-imposed suspension for right tackle Lane Johnson -- didn't help matters at all. Neither has the commitment defenses like Carolina's have made to cutting the running game out of the equation and forcing Foles and now Sanchez to beat them.

When teams have backed out of the box, if only a bit, then McCoy has been outstanding. He had 149 yards on 22 carries against the Giants. McCoy gained a team-high 117 of the Eagles' 190 rushing yards in the win at Houston.

Why, just last week McCoy was being lauded for his previous four games, when he had more than 80 yards each week, including those two 100-yard-plus outings.

Now the winds are of concern.

"I'm not worried about it," McCoy said. "It's going to come. Winning is the only thing that matters and we're 7-2."

Green Bay's defense has not played very well against the run for much of this season, allowing more than 146 ground yards per game and 4.6 yards per carry. But the Packers shut down Chicago's vaunted running game on Sunday night in part by making a smart coaching move of sliding star linebacker Clay Matthews from the outside to an inside position.

The numbers say the Packers are ripe to be run on in Sunday's game. The numbers, though, don't paint the real picture: It's all about the numbers.

"You don't know how a team is going to play it until we get to the game," running back Chris Polk said. "They may jam things up and play the run first. If they do that, it's tough gain a lot of lanes in the running game. They may give us some looks where we can get something going, but we still have to execute it.

"I think we have a lot of confidence in the running game and in the whole offense. We're winning on the scoreboard and that's the goal."

Trust Kelly here. He's got his finger on the pulse of the offense, and he and coordinator Pat Shurmur have fashioned an offense that can beat a defense in every way. It depends upon the numbers and the looks and the personnel matchups.

It is "personnel driven," as Kelly has said many times. The Eagles may use three wide receivers and a tight end and a running back and then sub in a tight end for a wide receiver or use two backs instead of a second tight end. It changes all the time.

The objective is points, and the Eagles are achieving that objective very well having used two starting quarterbacks and six different starting offensive line combinations and overcoming some injuries in the offensive backfield.

Run the football? It will be there when it has to be there and, more important, when the looks the defense offers make it feasible to call a running play. That's been the message from day one, and it isn't going to change with Kelly in charge.

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