You’re not supposed to be able to play football like this anymore.
You're definitely not supposed to be able to win like this.
Maybe if you’re the Dolphins with Larry Csonka, Mercury Morris and Jim Kiick. Maybe if you’re the Steelers with Franco Harris, Rocky Bleier and John Fuqua. Maybe if you’re the Bengals, with Ickey Woods, James Brooks and Stanley Wilson.
But today? In this modern era of high-powered passing attacks?
The Eagles have turned back the clock in their two playoff wins, becoming the first team in 33 years to rush 44 times in consecutive postseason games.
The last team to win like this was the 1989 49ers, with Roger Craig and Tom Rathman in a win over the Rams in the NFC Championship Game and in Super Bowl XXIV over the Broncos in New Orleans.
The Eagles ran 44 times for 268 yards and three touchdowns last week against the Giants, and that wasn’t a surprise, since they had run for 253 against the same team earlier in the season and they were statistically one of the worst run defenses in the league.
But the Niners came in allowing just 78 rushing yards per game — 2nd-fewest in the league. Nobody runs against them. Few even try.
It didn’t matter.
After throwing on 11 of 17 plays in the first quarter, the Eagles ran on 38 of their 52 remaining plays.
Four of those were touchdown runs of 6 and 13 yards by Miles Sanders, 10 yards by Boston Scott and 1 yard by Jalen Hurts.
The four rushing touchdowns are a franchise postseason record for the Eagles and also the most ever against the 49ers in a playoff game. In fact, they hadn’t allowed three in a playoff game since 1957.
More: Super Bowl-bound Eagles are the gold standard
The Eagles hadn’t rushed 44 times twice in a row in any games — regular season, postseason — in more than 40 years — 45 against the Cards and 49 against the Colts in 1981.
And think about this: The Eagles are the only team to rush 44 times in a playoff game over the last four years and they’ve done it twice in nine days.
The Eagles were gashing the Giants start to finish, but you don’t gash the 49ers as much as you just try to chip away. And the Eagles were able to do that.
In both playoff games, the passing game has been pretty quiet and a lot of that is because the Eagles jumped ahead quickly and didn’t need to throw but also because Jalen Hurts clearly isn’t 100 percent and the running game is clicking.
The Eagles’ terrific offensive line prides itself on being able to run against anybody anywhere anytime no matter who it is and what the situation, and Sunday proved that.
Take away a couple late kneel downs and the Eagles had 150 rushing yards or nearly twice what the 49ers allow each game.
On a day when the wide receivers had a total of 64 yards, Sanders ran 11 times for 42 yards and two TDs with one catch, Kenny Gainwell had 16 touches for 74 huge scrimmage yards and Boston Scott added 21 rushing yards.
So the receivers had 64 yards and the backs had 137.
Last week the receivers had 87 and the backs had 243.
For all we talk about A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Quez Watkins, the backs have carried the offense the last two weeks, generating nearly three times as many yards as the receivers.
A bit by necessity and a bit by circumstance. Shane Steichen’s philosophy is if the running game is working, just keep running until they prove they can stop you.
Running 88 times in two weeks also means you’re running clock, you’re wearing down the other defense and you’re keeping your defense off the field.
The Eagles had the ball 35:43 against the Giants and 37:26 against the 49ers. That means they were on the field 26 minutes longer than their opponents the first two playoff games.
Their seven rushing TDs are already the 9th-most in history by any team in any postseason.
Before this year, they had a total of seven rushing TDs in their previous 13 playoff games.
They’re only the fourth team in history with three or more rushing TDs in consecutive playoff games, joining the 1973 Dolphins, 2013 49ers and 2018 Patriots.
Can they keep pounding away in the Super Bowl? If they do, they're going to be awfully tough to beat.
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