It was working.
The Eagles went into Sunday’s game expecting to be able to run against one of the NFL’s worst run defenses and they were. Miles Sanders had six carries for 41 yards in the first quarter and it looked like the Eagles would be able to ride their feature back to a win.
And then Doug Pederson just abandoned the run again.
After Sanders’ impressive first quarter, the Eagles’ first two drives in the second quarter were both 3-and-outs with six drop backs for Carson Wentz. Sanders, who is arguably the Eagles’ best player, touched the ball just once on those drives — a three-yard catch.
“It’s not frustrating for me at all,” Sanders said. “Coaches have a game plan and we put all our trust in the coaches. So whatever play is called in the huddle, I’m going to run it.”
If Sanders isn’t frustrated, there are plenty of Eagles fans who are. Because we’ve seen this from Pederson before.
Sometimes, he’ll just completely abandon the run for large chunks of games. And six drop backs on two three-and-out drives in the second quarter is simply inexcusable.
Check out the six plays on these two drives:
- Wentz throws a pass to the right at Sanders’ feet
- Wentz hits Sanders in the middle of the field for 3 yards
- Wentz gets sacked for a loss of 7 yards as Jason Peters get beat
- Wentz completes a pass to Greg Ward for no gain
- Wentz throws a deep incompletion to Ward
- Wentz feels pressure and throws out of bounds.
Overall, the Eagles ended up with 175 rushing yards on Sunday but 65 of them came from Wentz, who scrambled quite a bit.
Sanders finished with 18 carries for 95 yards.
“Yeah, I guess. Now looking back, you could say we could have done this, could have done that,” Pederson said. “In the moment at the time, they had done some things with some of their nickel edge pressures that kind of deterred us from some of our run game fits, stemming the front, doing different things to kind of disrupt.
“We knew that coming in with this team. This is a team that gives you a lot of multiple fronts and multiple looks. We were making adjustments on the sideline. Felt like, too, we could make some gains with the ball coming out of Carson's hand and get him on the run just a little bit during the game.”
While Sanders was good on Sunday, Corey Clement and Boston Scott combined for six carries for 13 yards.
But giving Sanders fewer than 20 carries in that game is ridiculous. The Eagles needed to ride him and they didn’t. Instead, a struggling Wentz threw 47 passes.
The real problem here is that the Eagles came into this game knowing they could run the ball against the Bengals and they were right. The Browns were coming off a 215-yard game against them and the Bengals have been bad against the run for years. Look where they ranked in recent seasons:
- 2019: 32nd
- 2018: 29th
- 2017: 30th
- 2016: 21st
So the Eagles were facing a run defense they knew was awful and their running attack was working. And Pederson still went away from it.