Doug Pederson, Eagles need to stick with run, find balance for success

Doug Pederson, Eagles need to stick with run, find balance for success

New year. Same ratio.

The Eagles won a football game Sunday without much of a commitment to the running game.

Their final pass-run ratio against the Redskins was 45 pass plays and 20 running plays, but following the first quarter it was 36 pass plays and 13 running plays, and we saw Sunday at FedEx Field what we saw a lot last year.

Doug Pederson wants to establish the run early, then just abandons it, regardless of the score.

The Eagles escaped with a win, thanks mainly to the front seven's domination of the Redskins' offense and Carson Wentz's improvising when things broke down. And any time you can open the season with a road win over a division opponent, it's a great day.

But at some point, if the Eagles are going to be an elite team, a playoff team, three things have to happen.

1. Pederson has to find a way to stick with the run.

2. The offensive line has to open up some holes for the backs.

3. The backs have to produce.

I understand that the NFL of 2017 is a passing league. You win games by chucking the ball up and down the field. I'm OK with that. And the Eagles certainly have the quarterback to do it. But even in this era of super-charged passing attacks, you also need some balance just to keep the opposing defense off your quarterback and to run out the clock when you have a late lead.

In the two middle quarters Sunday, the Eagles ran 33 plays — 27 passes, six runs. And then when Pederson tried to dial up the run with a late lead, there was nothing there.  

The Eagles won Sunday, but let's be honest: The offense showed little rhythm.

Their two touchdown drives went 39 and 56 yards and both were the product of good field position and Wentz's improvisational wizardry. Those are both good things to have, but you sure can't count on them. Not over 16 games.

Take away Wentz's six rushing yards on four carries and the Eagles' backs averaged 2.6 yards per carry Sunday and 1.9 yards per carry in the second half.

The Eagles recorded just one rushing first down Sunday, making this the first time in 17 years they've won a game with just one rushing first down.

Let's look at the running game by quarter:

First quarter: LeGarrette Blount ran five times for 17 yards, including a couple six-yard gains. Decent start.

Second quarter: Blount had a seven-yard gain on a 1st-and-10 with 8:30 to go in the quarter, then didn't touch the ball again until the second half.

Third quarter: Blount went 13½ minutes between carries.

Fourth quarter: With the Eagles clinging to a two-point lead, Pederson finally tried to lean on the ground attack, but seven carries by Blount, Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles produced only 12 yards.

I get that if the running game isn't producing, you need to try something else. But Pederson generally doesn't give it a fair chance before abandoning it.

And I also get that this isn't the world's greatest collection of running backs. There's no Westbrook here. No Shady. There's not even a Ryan Mathews.

But at one point from the start of the second quarter until late in the fourth quarter, the Eagles ran 33 pass plays to nine running plays, and you're just not going to win many football games with your ratio that out of whack.

Committing to the run does a lot of things. It allows the offensive linemen to dictate to the defense. It keeps defenses guessing, which gives the O-line the ability to do a better job protecting the quarterback. It generates rhythm. It wears down a defensive front. It runs the clock.

Sunday's win was a great way to start the season, but the opponents are going to get tougher and the defenses are going to be stronger.

Last year, the Eagles averaged 42 pass plays per game, and Sunday they finished with 45.

There's a lot to like about this team. That front seven is a machine. Special teams is always fantastic under Dave Fipp. Wentz is evolving into an elite young quarterback. The secondary looks improved — maybe dramatically improved.

But somehow, some way, Pederson has to balance this thing out just a little.

You can't win consistently playing football like this.

Raiders beat Chiefs in thriller with touchdown on final play

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Raiders beat Chiefs in thriller with touchdown on final play


OAKLAND, Calif. -- Wins have been so hard to come by for the Oakland Raiders that it took three tries at the final play for them finally to pull this one out and possibly save their season.

Derek Carr threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree on the final play after the game was extended by two straight defensive holding calls and the Raiders snapped a four-game losing streak with a 31-30 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night.

"We didn't give up," Crabtree said. "We got a team full of fighters. We believe. ... No matter how hard the game was, we believed. We came out with the W and I'm excited. It's a good way to win, a great way to win."

With their season on the line following the recent slump, Carr led an 85-yard touchdown drive in the final 2:25 to give the Raiders (3-4) the thrilling comeback in a game they trailed by nine points heading into the fourth quarter.

Carr finished 29 for 52 for 417 yards and three touchdowns, with Amari Cooper catching 11 passes for 210 yards and two of the scores. The Raiders had struggled to get the ball downfield while being held to 17 or fewer points in four straight games but Carr repeatedly beat the Chiefs with deep passes.

"No. 4 kept making plays," coach Jack Del Rio said. "This is a special, special win."

Alex Smith threw for 342 yards and three touchdowns but it wasn't enough for the Chiefs (5-2). They lost consecutive games for the first time since Oct. 11-18, 2015, and had their 12-game winning streak in the AFC West snapped in a thrilling finish.

"I've never been part of a game that came down so dramatic," linebacker Derrick Johnson said. "But, still had a chance to win. Period. Just have to make a play. One play. One play."

The Raiders had an apparent go-ahead touchdown pass to Jared Cook with 18 seconds left overturned when replay ruled he was down at the 1. An offensive pass interference on Crabtree wiped out another touchdown on the next play.

But holding calls on Ron Parker and Eric Murray set the stage for the final play. Carr hit Crabtree in the front corner of the end zone to tie it at 30. Giorgio Tavecchio won it with the extra point , setting off a celebration on a wild night that included Oakland running back Marshawn Lynch getting ejected in the second quarter for shoving an official.

Hot tempers
The game took an odd turn midway through the second quarter after Kansas City's Marcus Peters hit Carr late, angering the Raiders. Offensive linemen Kelechi Osemele and Donald Penn confronted Peters and Lynch sprinted off the Oakland sideline to join the fray. Lynch, a close friend of Peters, ended up shoving line judge Julian Mapp and getting ejected . Peters also was called for a personal foul on the play. Lynch congratulated his teammates in the locker room after the game but didn't speak to reporters.

"I was disappointed he ran out because I knew we had a 15-yard penalty and we'd be in good shape," Del Rio said.

Long drive
After Marquette King pinned the Chiefs at their own 1 with a perfect punt early in the second quarter, Kansas City needed little time to turn the momentum. Smith hit Demarcus Robinson on a 33-yard pass on the first play of the drive. After a short run, Tyreek Hill beat David Amerson for a 64-yard touchdown pass that gave the Chiefs their first 99-yard drive since doing it Dec. 3, 2006, against Cleveland.

Deep connection
Carr had not connected on a single deep ball to Amari Cooper all season before the two teamed twice for long TDs in the opening quarter. On the first, Cooper appeared to push Terrance Mitchell but the officials picked up the flag and gave Cooper the 38-yard TD . Later in the quarter Carr and Cooper connected on a 45-yard score, making Cooper the first Raiders receiver with two TD catches in the first quarter since Mervyn Fernandez in 1989.

Kicking woes
The Raiders were hurt last week when a bad snap by Jon Condo led to a missed extra point by Giorgio Tavecchio in a 17-16 loss to the Chargers. That was Tavecchio's first missed kick of any kind this season but he then had a 53-yarder blocked and missed a 45-yarder wide left in the second quarter. Tavecchio also had a false start on an extra point in the third quarter.

Up next
Chiefs: Host Denver on Oct. 30.

Raiders: Visit Buffalo on Oct. 29.

Carson Wentz feels 5-1 Eagles 'just wired different this year'

Carson Wentz feels 5-1 Eagles 'just wired different this year'

There's something special going on around here, and Carson Wentz isn't afraid to say it.

“We’re made different this year," Wentz said after practice Thursday. "We have a different character makeup in that locker room, and nobody’s going to ever settle for anything less than greatness. So we’re going to go out there every day and attack it.”

The Eagles, 5-1, go for their fifth straight win Monday night against the Redskins, who they beat on opening day at FedEx Field.

Wentz, in only his second season, has elbowed his way into the NFL MVP conversation (see story). His emergence as the unquestioned leader of this team has mirrored the team's emergence as one of the NFL's elite teams.

Wentz spoke Thursday about how he sensed something different, something special, as far back as spring workouts.

“You could just see it, even going back to OTAs," he said. "You could see the competitive nature, even in practice. You couldn’t wear pads. You couldn’t even press cover outside. You could just see the competitive nature.

"And then through training camp, it just kept getting elevated even more. You could just see it from the leadership on down. We’re just wired different this year.”

When Wentz tells his teammates to strive for greatness, they listen, because here's a kid who in just 22 career games has established himself as one of the NFL's best young quarterbacks. He has 13 touchdowns and just three interceptions this year and has posted a passer rating of 90 or higher in five of six games.

“It’s something that we always strive for," Wentz said. "And really, in everything we do in life, you strive for greatness.

"When we’re sitting where we’re at right now, we can just never let that slip. We can never let that slip from our preparation in the film room, the meeting room, the weight room, in practice, so that’s just something I feel like we have to always keep focusing on.

"Never settle, never settle, and just keep striving for that greatness.”

Wentz said he didn't feel anything lacking last year, when the Eagles went 7-9 and missed the playoffs for a third straight year.

It's just that head coach Doug Pederson is in Year 2, coordinators Frank Reich and Jim Schwartz are in Year 2 and Wentz is in Year 2.

The whole program is in Year 2 and there's a confidence, an attitude, a swagger that was nowhere to be found last year or really the last few years.

“I think it was just a natural growth," Wentz said. "You go back and look at last season again. We were so close in so many of those ballgames but [it's] just the natural growth that’s taken place both from coach and just really all of us being in this together and having a year under our belt."