GREEN BAY, Wis. — The running game wasn’t clicking, and they knew it.
Three weeks into the season, the Eagles were 17th in the NFL in rushing yards per game and 25th in yards per carry.
Not what you’d expect from a team with an offensive line considered one of the best in the NFL, a former Pro Bowl running back and a prized second-round rookie running back.
So the offensive linemen and the running backs did something about it.
They got together and exchanged ideas about why the ground attack wasn’t working and how they could jumpstart it.
After the past few weeks, we got with them and explained what we were seeing and how we were blocking it and how they want us to block it, and how we want them to run,” Brandon Brooks said. “In the middle of practice, man, if we didn’t like the way it was ran? ‘Hey! This is where you need to run it, this is where we’re blocking it.’ I think we just held each other accountable. If we didn’t like how a play went at practice, we would start over. If we didn’t like the execution of a play, we would start over. If we didn’t like how a running back was running the ball or how we were blocking it for him, we would just do it over until we were all on the same page.
On Thursday night, for the first time this year, they were on that same page.
Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard both had huge games, the offensive line got back to carving out giant holes, and the Eagles ran 33 times for 176 yards and a couple TDs in a heart-stopping 34-27 win over the Packers at Lambeau Field (see observations).
The Eagles became only the second visiting team in the last decade and only the seventh in the last 35 years to come into Lambeau Field and rush for 175 yards with two rushing TDs and beat the Packers.
“Doug [Pederson's] plan was to just keep pounding the ball and that opened more stuff and when we needed to pass the ball, we were able to do it and we got first downs,” Sanders said. “Big thanks for the O-line. They played their ass off the whole game opening up holes for us.”
Howard ran 15 times for 87 yards and two touchdowns and caught a 20-yard touchdown pass.
Sanders rebounded from his two-fumble game against the Lions with 72 yards on just 11 carries.
The last time two Eagles backs had over 70 yards and at least 5.5 yards per carry in the same game was Bryce Brown and LeSean McCoy against the Bears in 2013.
“He’s very explosive, makes people miss, he can run through people,” Howard said of Sanders. “I wish I could move like that, move the way he does. Most of the time I’ve just got to run through people to get my yards. Gotta do it the tough way. He makes it look easy. I just feel like we feed off each other very well.”
Most importantly, Pederson stuck with the running game, which kept the clock moving and kept Aaron Rodgers off the field as much as possible.
“This is what we should be,” Jason Kelce said. “We utilized both backs to their strengths. We had a great game plan going in. We have the O-line to do it, we have the backs to do it, we have the unit to be a balanced offense. That’s just how we function the best.”
The Packers had allowed only 35 points all year, but they had allowed 4.9 yards per carry — tied for 6th-worst in the league.
The Eagles knew exactly how to attack.
“We knew they struggle with the run game and we knew we were going to pound the ball the whole game,” Sanders said.
In this stadium? Against that team?
Pederson’s gameplan was brilliant.
The Eagles ran the ball 33 times, and Carson Wentz only passed 27 times, although he did throw three TDs.
“We’re a much better team, a much better offense when we’re able to have that running consistency,” Zach Ertz said. “Once we establish the run we keep the defense second-guessing and the play action works a lot better.”
Facing a very tough, very aggressive Packers front, Wentz wasn't sacked.
No wonder he loves the running attack.
“The running game was huge,” Wentz said. “Riding the O-line and those two backs, that’s huge. Huge for me. Takes a lot of pressure off me to be able to move the ball on the ground the way we did tonight.”
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