The Eagles have a problem running the ball.
What's he talking about? Aren’t they 10th in the NFL in rushing yards and fourth in yards per carry?
Yeah, they are. But look behind the numbers and you’ll see what I mean.
On Sunday in Cleveland, the Eagles ran 19 times for 96 yards in the first half and six times for 10 yards in the second half.
Look even closer. On their first drive, the Eagles ran nine times for 49 yards (5.4 yards per carry) and 16 times for 58 yards the entire rest of the game (3.6).
In the second half, the backs ran five times for three yards and in the fourth quarter they ran once … for one yard.
Great start. Sluggish finish.
And that's the way it's been around here all year, although it's usually taken a little longer for the running game to dry up.
In the first quarter this year, the Eagles’ backs are averaging 5.7 yards per carry. In the second, they’re at 4.7 yards per carry. And 6.0 in the third.
Put it all together and this is what you have:
• In the first 45 minutes of games, the Eagles are averaging 5.4 yards per carry. And that’s the No. 3 figure in the NFL going into the fourth quarter.
• But in the fourth quarter, that figure plunges to 3.6 yards per carry.
• And over the last seven games in particular, the Eagles have been shockingly bad running the ball late in games — would you believe their running backs are averaging 1.6 yards per carry in the fourth quarter since Week 4?
We all know Doug Pederson has a bad habit of throwing the ball too much anyway, and as the running game has struggled late in games, it’s given him even more of a reason to rely too heavily on an ineffective passing game.
Let’s take a look at the fourth-quarter rushing numbers of Eagles running backs in their last seven games — and keep in mind Miles Sanders missed the first Giants game and the Cowboys game:
5 for -9: 49ers
2 for 0: Steelers
2 for 4: Ravens
3 for 22: Giants
5 for 15: Cowboys
4 for 3: Giants
1 for 1: Browns
That means in their last seven games, the Eagles’ running backs have run the ball 22 times in the fourth quarter for just 36 yards.
Even if you take out Adrian Killins’ 12-yard loss against the 49ers, which tends to skew the numbers, it’s still 21 for 48.
Sanders has been so good this year, and he’s still No. 3 in the NFL with a 5.7 rushing average.
But his fourth-quarter numbers are striking — 2.8 yards per carry for the season and just six rushing yards on nine carries in the last seven fourth quarters.
There’s a lot to figure out here.
Pederson runs so rarely late in games — leading or trailing — that there just isn’t a huge body of work to go by.
But he’ll tell you that when the run isn’t working, he’s not going to keep dialing it up.
Is Sanders fatigued later in games? He missed most of training camp and has been in and out of the lineup with injuries.
Is the offensive line wearing down late in games and failing to open holes for the backs? The gaping holes we’ve seen early in games are certainly not there later in games.
Is Pederson simply getting out-coached? You can make a case that opposing defensive coaches are adjusting to what the Eagles are doing in the running game early and shutting it down later and Pederson hasn’t been able to adjust back.
That’s how Sanders explained his second-half rushing ineffectiveness Sunday: “They made a good adjustment and made it hard for us to run the ball.”
So much goes into running the ball effectively. Play-calling, offensive line play, the backs seeing the holes and then all of it coming together.
All those things are likely contributing to one of the best running teams in the league for the first 45 minutes becoming one of the worst in the league the last 15 minutes.
Whatever the reason, it's just another thing that's making it very hard for this football team to win games.
Subscribe to the Eagle Eye podcast: