After they ran for 236 yards against the Lions, it was hard to imagine Nick Sirianni would stick with the running attack. Heck, everybody runs on the Lions.
After they ran for 176 yards against the Chargers, there was still no reason to believe this was anything more than the Eagles running the ball against a couple of the worst run defenses in the league.
After they ran for 214 yards Sunday against a good Broncos team with a top-10 run defense? Now it’s safe to say this is who the Eagles are.
They have the o-line. They have the backs. And now they have a coach who finally understands the value of running the football.
The Eagles have now rushed for 626 yards in their last three games, their 5th-most in any three-game stretch in the last 70 years. And it would have been their 4th-most if not for three Jalen Hurts kneel downs at the end of the game.
But those kneel downs and that 30-13 win against a 5-4 Broncos team were possible because of the 37 carries that came before them.
Sirianni has morphed from a coach who was calling 77 percent pass plays and running an ineffective, predictable offense through seven games to a coach who has made Jordan Howard and Boston Scott – two running backs who weren’t even on his radar the first two months of the season – the centerpiece of the offense.
It’s been an astonishing transformation, really an admission from Sirianni that the offense he spent January through August preparing was the wrong offense for this team, this quarterback, this roster.
He scrapped everything and put the team in the hands of one running back who was on the practice squad until last week and another who didn’t have a carry until Miles Sanders got hurt in Vegas in Week 7 … and of course a massive offensive line that loves to run block.
This isn’t the way Sirianni planned to play football, but it’s working.
It's not the easiest thing for a coach to admit his plan was the wrong one, but Sirianni deserves credit for making the changes he had to make.
And based on what we’ve seen the last few weeks, it’s going to be very hard to stop this running attack.
Even though they barely ran it early in the year, the Eagles are up to third in the NFL with 144 rushing yards per game and fourth at 5.0 yards per carry.
This is the first time since 1950 they’ve run for 175 yards in three games in a row. They’re only the fourth NFL team in the last 30 years to run for 175 yards and throw fewer than 25 passes in three straight games since 1988.
Jalen Hurts has been the biggest beneficiary of the new emphasis on the ground game. It’s amazing how much better a young quarterback looks when the defense doesn’t know he’s throwing the ball every snap.
First seven games: Hurts completed 61 percent of his passes with 10 TDs, four INTs and an 89.5 passer rating, and the Eagles went 2-5 and averaged 22.7 points per game.
Last three games: He’s at 67 percent with three TDs, one INT and a 102.6 passer rating. And the team is 2-1 and has averaged 33 points per game.
“The past three weeks have been good,” Lane Johnson said. “(When you run the ball), you control the time of possession, and you can just slowly grind them down. It makes the pass rush a lot easier (to stop) and a lot of parts of the game a lot easier. So we've done well the past few weeks, and we’ve just got to keep it up.”
What’s remarkable about this three-game run – and the Eagles have 150 more rushing yards since Week 8 than any other NFL team – is that they’ve done it without Sanders, who is eligible to return this week for the Saints game.
And they’ve done it without anybody rushing for 100 yards in a game. They’re the first team since the 1978 Patriots to rush for 175 yards in three straight games without a 100-yard rusher in any of them.
So teams can’t even key on one player. They’ve got to deal with Howard’s power, Scott’s elusiveness and Hurts’ speed.
A very tough combination.
Over the last three weeks, Howard is 2nd to Jonathan Taylor in the NFL in rushing, Hurts is 8thand Scott is 9th. The Eagles have three of the NFL’s top-nine rushers in a three-game period. And all three are averaging over 5.0 yards per carry and among the top-16 in the entire league in rushing average.
Good luck stopping that.
It’s huge that the Eagles have been so dominating running the ball. It’s even bigger that it looks like the coach is going to stick with it.
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