Abandoning the run has sort of been the elephant in the room since Andy Reid was calling plays for the Philadelphia Eagles. So it’s only natural his protege, Doug Pederson, would carry the full weight of that shadowy trunk.
The Eagles ran the football on nine of their first 12 plays on Sunday and punctuated their opening drive with a four-yard rushing touchdown off the lightning-quick legs of Miles Sanders. Their bellcow back rushed five times on the first series, then saw three carries on the third possession. Remember, there was only one play on the second drive after Jalen Hurts connected on an 81-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson. Was it enough?
“Honestly, y’all how I am, I don’t question the play-calling,” Sanders told reporters after the game. “I trust the play-calling, I trust the coaches, whatever is called I go out there and give 110-percent. That’s above my level right now, so whatever’s called I’m going to go out there and do my job.”
Sanders finished the game with 15 carries for 57 yards, with 11 of those touches coming in the first half. He took four carries for 28 yards in the second half (7.0 yards-per-carry) and last touched the ball with 9:48 showing on the clock in the fourth quarter. Not enough.
“We were behind, we were behind, what, 10 points, I guess,” Sanders said. “It’s hard to keep running the ball when you’re behind like that, trying to get things going, trying to get down field fast, and get points on the board so we can balance it out.”
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Blame Bad Penalties for Abandoning the Run
The scoreboard was one reason for abandoning the run but the penalties were the bigger factor. The Eagles committed 12 total penalties, including six false starts mostly due to late snaps. It was impossible for them to find a rhythm on offense. And once they dug themselves that two-score hole, the ground game predictably took a backseat.
“You start out and you get — you want to establish that run,” Pederson said. “That was the thing that we wanted to do and the one thing that really — as the game progressed, and you really look at the second half, and it’s kind of the tale of two halves again. The mistakes that were made in the passing game, mistakes that were made in the run game, the penalties, the pre-snap penalties, are all things that really cost us the opportunity to score points.”
Sanders was the first to acknowledge it and even took a subtle jab at reporters for not paying attention to the pre-snap mistakes. This is a guy who has rushed for 867 yards and averages 5.3 yards per carry, second-best in the NFL among qualifying running backs.
“Honestly, if y’all watch the game, I think the only thing that hurt us was penalties,” Sanders said. “I think just playing smarter football, and everybody doing their job, and executing at a high standard, and holding ourselves and each other accountable. Honestly, the penalties really killed us. It was impossible to get a true rhythm.”
Eagles ‘Super Disappointed’ About Missing Playoffs
The post-game locker room was a somber one as the realization of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2016 slowly sunk in. Everyone on the roster seemed to be of the opinion that this team was better than their 4-10-1 record, that they deserved a better fate. It may have been a case of million-dollar talent, but a 10-cent head.
“Disappointed, super disappointed. We worked our asses off, every week, all week, every day,” Sanders said. “I believe that we’re a great football team, we just have to play smarter. That’s all around, pre-snap penalties, situational football, everything … but I do believe this is a great team and I do believe better days are coming.”