In an era where the average team throws 41 times a game and runs 24 times a game, the Tennessee Titans are a rare exception to NFL convention.
They run more than they throw. Way more.
The Titans love to run. Which should play right into the Eagles’ hands Sunday, when they face the Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville.
The Titans are averaging 32.7 rushing attempts per game so far, second-most in the league (they have one carry fewer than the Redskins). But they’re only 24th in yards per carry (3.7).
It’s an anachronistic way of operating an offense in the NFL these days.
So far, the Titans have run 54 percent of the time and thrown just 46 percent.
The league averages are 37 and 63.
So Tennessee runs 27 percent more than the average 2018 NFL team.
They’re averaging six more rushing attempts per game through three weeks than passing attempts.
The combination of a very good defense and ball control means the Titans want to win low-scoring games, like they did Sunday, 9-6 over Jacksonville.
They’ve only scored three offensive TDs this year, but they’re 2-1.
The Titans are the only NFL team that hasn’t scored or allowed more than 50 points, and they’re actually only the third team to do that after three games in the last nine years.
But in the Eagles, the Titans will see the best rushing defense in the league.
Since 2016, they’ve allowed an NFL-low 89 rushing yards per game. This year, that number is an NFL-best 61.7, their lowest since 2008.
At their current pace, the Eagles will become only the 11th team since 1960 to allow fewer than 1,300 rushing yards in consecutive seasons.
The Eagles have faced 54 runs so far this year, only four for 10 yards or more and only two of those by running backs.
Nobody has even rushed for 40 yards against the Eagles in their last five games, the first time that’s happened since the last two games of 2002 and the first five games of 2003.
The Eagles haven’t allowed a second-half run over nine yards this year and just one over six yards.
So a team that wants to run far more than it throws is about to take on a historically great rush defense.
“They are committed to the run,” Jim Schwartz said. “They've invested a lot of resources in it.
“Drafted a couple offensive lineman, offensive tackles (in the first round). They’ve got a veteran offensive line. They have a Heisman Trophy running back. They had probably their premier free-agent pick-up this year, Dion Lewis, and they have a running quarterback.
“So obviously it's what they want to do and they're committed to it, so it's our job to combat that. … So our goal is to get opponents stopped. However we do it, we do it.”
Lewis is the Titans’ leading rusher with 143 yards but only 3.7 per carry. Derrick Henry, the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner for Alabama, has 139 yards but only a 3.0 average.
QB Marcus Mariota is averaging 6.6 yards per carry and has a 5.9 career average, ninth-highest in NFL history.
He’s really the Titans’ only threat in the backfield.
“He's probably the fastest quarterback in the NFL right now,” Schwartz said. “Looks like a 40-yard dash he's running so fast.”