I’m not one of those guys who believes in a balanced offense. I’m not one of those guys who’s always screaming about running the ball more. About being 50-50.
The NFL is a passing league more than ever. I get that. You win by slinging the ball up and down the field.
There is, however, a time and a place to run the football.
And Doug Pederson whiffed on that Sunday.
Nobody really runs the ball as a philosophy anymore, but the league is still 60-40. Even in this modern high-powered NFL with fancy passing games, teams still do run the ball an average of 25 times a game, and there’s a good reason for that.
Because even in a predominantly passing league, if you throw all the time, you’re going to get your quarterback killed.
Which takes us to Sunday.
It was open season on Carson Wentz down in Nashville. The Titans teed off on Wentz throughout the game, using a steady array of blitzes to get shots on Wentz, keep him from getting into a rhythm, smash him to the ground and in one case caused a fumble.
Yet through it all, Pederson ignored the running game. As the sacks and hits piled up, as the offensive line continued to struggle in pass protection, Pederson called pass after pass after pass.
We’ve all seen this before around here. As brilliant a coach as Doug Pederson’s mentor Andy Reid is, he was prone to these same sorts of lapses, where he would simply forget to run the ball.
During one stretch spanning the second and third quarters, 38 of 45 plays were called passes. By the time regulation was over, Pederson had called 52 pass plays and 15 runs.
What’s baffling is that the Eagles were coming off a win over the Colts where they ran for over 150 yards without Jay Ajayi and really controlled the clock.
And they were on the road, where pass rushers have an edge thanks to crowd noise. And the best way to neutralize a ferocious pass rush is to run the ball enough to keep defenses guessing.
When you’re throwing nearly 80 percent of the time — which is what the Eagles did through regulation — you’re not keeping anybody guessing.
Then a funny thing happened.
The Eagles ran the ball on five of eight snaps in overtime and gained 41 yards. That’s eight yards a pop. Matter of fact, 35 percent of all their rushing yards in the entire game came in OT.
That drive, which resulted in a field goal, was the Eagles’ only drive where Pederson called more than two running plays. And he called five.
The Eagles’ OT drive gobbled up 8 1/2 minutes of clock. It kept pressure off Wentz, It moved the chains.
Where was that all day?
Now, the Eagles wound up losing because the Titans drove down the field for a touchdown. But that one overtime drive showed exactly what could have been. What should have been. And had Pederson mixed in the run just a little more during the first 60 minutes, then maybe there never would have even been a last 15 minutes.
The Eagles have a big, strong, tough offensive line that loves to run block. We’ve all seen them wear defenses down. We’ve seen them pounds teams. When the Eagles did run Sunday, they averaged 5.5 yards a pop with Ajayi and Wendell Smallwood.
It doesn’t take a ton. It doesn’t take 35 carries a game. Just enough to keep defenses on their toes. To keep them off-balance. Because when they know what’s coming, life’s bound to be very tough for any quarterback. Even one as gifted as Carson Wentz.